The Flora Expo: Both Moving and Beautiful
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 5, 2010
The Taipei International Flora Exposition is opening tomorrow, and will remain open for six months. The expo has opened during election season, amidst the "fog of war." The political bickering may have blunted the public's initial enthusiasm. But people can now leave behind the odor of political rhetoric. They can wander through the Expo's colorful gardens, and appreciate the ingenuity of its green building designs. The public on Taiwan will be left even more amazed at the Flora Expos' soft power.
Although it is known as the "Taipei Flora Expo," it is in fact a venue for horticulture, architecture, culture, art, and technology on Taiwan as a whole. The world flora expo has been held 49 times. Not one of them compares to this one. No one has ever had such ambitions for a horticultural event. No world flora expo has been this extensive. In addition to displaying the artistry of our flower growers and the ingenuity of our horticultural industry, it has shone a spotlight on our local culture, history, and technology. It is far more than a run of the mill flora expo. It is a rare opportunity for us to shine on the international stage.
The Shanghai World Expo has just ended. To a considerable extent it provided a stimulus for Taipei's own "Mini Expo." The two cannot compare, either in character or in scale. But both are six-month events. The Taipei Flora Expo cost 10 billion NT. It will attract 8 million visitors. The Shanghai World Expo cost 400 billion RMB. It attracted 70 million visitors. David must be perfect when challenging Goliath. This means we must not only plan well, we must also be gracious hosts. Only then can we succeed.
The Flora Expo venue covers 90 hectares. Ninety percent of the flowers are locally grown. For years flower growers and the horticultural industry on Taiwan have dedicated themselves to the development of advanced cultivation techniques and a professional division of labor. They have achieved considerable visibility in the international arena. Unusual flowers and trees have been distributed throughout the gardens by skilled craftsmen, in a colorful manner. Flowers and trees are silent. Bees and butterflies arrive on their own. New ground has been broken throughout, leaving visitors amazed. Visitors who come merely to demagogue the "water spinach" issue, will soon discover that their labors are superfluous.
What leaves one stunned are not just the flowers, but the exquisite design of the exhibition as a whole, its attention to detail and to self-improvement. Three tranquil, low profile pavilions, covered with vegetation, have been constructed around existing trees. These pavilions may be disassembled and the land restored to the park. No footings have been poured, anywhere. In an effort to avoid burning the feet of birds and insects that might alight, no concrete or steel has been used, anywhere. Architects introduced water from the Keelung River. After passing through gravel, water spinach, water oats, and other aquatic plants, the purified and filtered water is used to irrigate plants. It is also recycled and used to cool the surrounding air to 22 degrees.
These architects treat design as a spiritual discipline. Self-promoting politicians may stand before the public and rant about 500 NT water spinach. But what are they doing, except administering poison to individuals of talent?
The Pavilion of Dreams uses sophisticated information technology to move visitors. It allows audience members to participate in a dialogue between man and nature. Through electronic sensing technology and giant LCD screens, it allows them to enter the world of flowers, through the eyes of insects, to enter to blossoms, to spread pollen, to breath with and feel the pulse of flowers and trees. The Pavilion of Dreams does not contain a single real flower for blade of grass. It uses science to put the audience into landscapes created by artists. Ultra thin film speakers have been made to look like flowers. These flowers dance in tune with the music. This teaches viewers a lesson about nature while immersing them in beauty.
From a practical perspective, some degree of confusion will be difficult to avoid. Traffic control, park reception, and the maintenance and planting of flowers and trees, will make opening day a real challenge. Organizers must be on guard. Visitors must try to be cooperative. For the public on Taiwan, the exposition is not merely an international flower market, or a horticultural festival. It provides us with a deeper appreciation of beauty, of sustainable development, with a life education. The Pavilion of Trends features a "Ecologicial Ark" design. It is the world's environmentally friendly building constructed entirely out of recycled PET bottles. It takes advantage of wind direction and building slope to optimize light and heat energy, and to achieve maximum carbon reduction. The use of PET bottles to create a green building that is also aesthetically pleasing constitutes a significant breakthrough.
As one enters the Expo, one sees not just colorful flowers and unusual trees. One experiences the rhythm of nature from the perspective of an insect, via high technology. One experiences green architecture, and how it sustains the life of greenhouse flowers. More importantly, it enables visitors to take away an aesthetic experience to be shared with their communities and neighborhoods, It allows them to make their own homes more beautiful. No longer need we endure pockets of wasteland. Builders and architects will be inspired to evince greater respect for the works of man and nature, rather than think only of how to convert square footage into dollar bills.
The Shanghai World Expo has helped Shanghai become more polite and more civilized. Will the Taipei Flora Expo do the same for Taiwan?