It ain’t no handstand: last [updated: not] thoughts on the USA pavilion at Expo 2010

Last year, Clive Grout, the Canadian architect commissioned to design the USA pavilion for Expo 2010, spoke to a US trade journal devoted to theme parks, about his design:

“The building is designed here the way we’d do it if it was in downtown Philadelphia or in Los Angeles,” he explains. “It’s a model for high-density, low-rise development in our cities. We have a very prominent site and it is the USA Pavilion. People will find it. We have not felt the need to do an architectural handstand to get attention.”

$61 million later, this is the result – as of yesterday (click to enlarge):

To put this design in perspective, I encourage readers to click over to William Bostwick’s “Exporting Architecture: the Rise and Fall of US World Expo pavilions” over at Fast Company. For those who’d like to better understand how the US settled on its 2010 design, you might click over to my recent Foreign Policy piece, A Sorry Spectacle. After the jump, images of several Expo 2010 pavilions within a ten minute walk of the USA pavilion (each of which cost less than $61 million, by the way).

All images taken yesterday (click to enlarge).






For additional Expo pavilion photos (many of which perform handstands), see Pascal Deseure’s terrific gallery at Picassa (GFW’d).

[Personal note: With a little luck, this should pretty much wrap up this blog’s coverage of the USA pavilion debacle. I’m tired of that building, and the people who built it. That noted, I reserve the right to go all Brett Favre-like and come back better than ever if the right offer comes my way. Such as access to the pavilion’s budget and books which, despite requests, remain secret. Get to it, fellow reporters and bloggers. As of March 29 – NEVER MIND. I’m back on the case …]



  1. As a native Angeleno I hope to god that Clive Grout never gets near our downtown. The thing looks like an overgrown Chipotle outlet.

  2. What a POS. Let the metaphors for American decline begin. US spends more, gets less, exhibits itself to the world as a low-end shopping mall.

  3. ? Hey I didn’t know there was a mall inside the EXPO… 🙂

    Nice pictures of the pavilions. Can’t wait to see them live!

  4. Love the strip mall look. All it’s missing is a “Checks Cashed Here” outlet.

    In any case, if the architects’ assignment was to “capture and symbolize America’s contributions to the world’s future” then they accomplished their task.

  5. “We have not felt the need to do an architectural handstand to get attention.” So true, the banality of the USA pavilion ensures attention and comment.

  6. If someone invite you to a party at their home don’t you try to wear your best clothe instead of the average one? Just shows the Chinese that American don’t care.

  7. Yeah, it is totally underwhelming. I think Americans need to understand why this is so lame. Thanks for your writing and coverage of this story. I’m going to read your FP piece right now.

  8. Adam I’m sorry to see that you won’t be writing about the pavilion anymore. But thank you for raising the issue. None of us would know the ugly back story if you had not been so diligent in pursuing it. The Shanghai CG, Cooney, Jarret, they’re all going to have to answer for this at some point. Company men and women to the core. For shame.

  9. It looks like something I’d see here in Tianjin, with a depreciation ‘half-life’ measured in minutes.

  10. Maybe they were going for slice-of-life/here’s what typical America is like? Because you could stick your finger anywhere on a map of the contiguous United States and probably not be more than 50 miles from a shopping mall that’s the spitting image of that thing.

  11. To salvage Grout’s reputation a little, if no one else’s, the initial pavilion design was given plastic surgery by a “Shanghai design institute” to remove whatever life remained. To further the notion that there is no justice in the world, Tom Cooney, the Consulate PR hack who strong-armed local expats out of the picture in 2008 is now Deputy Commissioner General of the US Pavilion. In US political circles, it pays to be a jerk.

    As to Adam’s lament, the books for a tax exempt organization are by law accessible to the public. You just have to ask for them….

  12. Tom Cooney is many things but responsible for this mess he’s not. This was fixed WAY above his pay grade. His job was to take orders and he did. Camp on the other hand could have spoken up and said that there’s problems on the ground in Shanghai. What I’ll never understand is how she was completely taken in by Eliasoph et al. She always struck me as more sensible than that.

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