01 July 2009

USA Pavilion breaks ground in Shanghai

From the USAP website
World Expos: USA Pavilion Groundbreaking in Shanghai
 (Originally published on Blooloop.com in July 2009)

by Judith Rubin

Nick Winslow
It's official: the USA Pavilion (USAP) at Shanghai Expo 2010 is a done deal. The governments and people of both countries welcome a positive new chapter in what has been a difficult, suspenseful and sometimes uncertain undertaking. In a difficult economy and a compressed timeframe, the team headed by Nick Winslow and Ellen Eliasoph has succeeded in raising enough private funds for the US and China to enter into a formal participation agreement and for pavilion construction to officially commence. Jose Villareal, US Commissioner General, and Gary Locke, US Secretary of Commerce, will both be present on the expo site for tomorrow's ceremonial groundbreaking.

The accomplishment of Winslow's team is that much more substantial in light of the fact that 100% of the $61 million needed to build, staff, operate (and, after closing day, tear down and remove) the USAP had to be obtained from private sources. Most international pavilions at a world's fair receive at least some government funding, which helps kickstart the process in a practical sense and also makes a diplomatic statement. Although Shanghai expo organizers did at an early stage select and hold a well-located plot of land on the expo site for the USAP, there was some very real and justified concern that the US might not come through.

But the past few months have seen an ever increasing base of support for the pavilion in the US and China and Winslow and his team stayed optimistic. “It's been a collaborative effort getting the sponsorships,” Winslow says. “Some sponsorships have been driven from the US and some from China. Those on the Chinese side had to want to be participants; those on the American side had to want to spend the money. On the US side, the State Department and other high level Federal people made it clear through a series of meetings, phone calls and other communications that this is an important piece of American diplomacy and they are looking to corporate America to get it done. Hillary Clinton says she is 'obsessed,' with this project. It getting absolute top-level treatment.”

Bob Rogers, BRC Imagination Arts
While the US State Department cannot itself solicit funds, it can create a setting for doing so, and Winslow reported that US Ambassador Elizabeth Frawley Bagley, a well regarded political fundraiser, has played an instrumental role in helping to host events for potential sponsors to connect with US and Chinese officials. After the first few sponsors came in the gate, others started to follow and they are now signing up at a steady pace. The current list includes Pepsico Inc., General Electric, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Golden Eagle International Group, Yum! Brands Inc., Dell (China) Company Ltd., Microsoft Corp., The Boeing Company, Committee of 100, Intel Semiconductor Ltd., Panasonic Corp. of North America, 3M China Co. Ltd., Cargill, Corning Inc., Nyse Euronext, The Executive Centre Hong Kong Ltd., and USA-China Education Science & Culture Assn.

“Some companies were sitting on sidelines waiting to see how important this was to the Chinese,” says Winslow. “And the Chinese have been very public in communicating that it is. People like the story of the pavilion that we are doing.” All members of Winslow's team have been active in sponsorship transactions, notably Norm Elder and Jim Garber in the US, and Felix Wong and Dan Whitaker in China.

The pavilion itself will welcome the general public and also have what Winslow terms “absolutely first rate” VIP facilities for business-to-business and business-to-government interactions, a critical function at world expos. Clive Grout Architects designed the building and BRC Imagination Arts is providing the multimedia guest experience. The USAP will explore the “Better Cities, Better Life” theme of the expo by telling a story through the voice of a Chinese-American woman living in the year 2030, who was a visitor to the Shanghai expo in 2010. Her life as portrayed in 2030 reflects the “Better Cities” catalyst of the expo 20 years earlier, and the values of teamwork, and celebrates ethnic diversity and the accomplishments of the Chinese-American community. This message from the future will play out in a 4D multimedia theater format. The post show exhibits will portray the seeds of change and sustainability that will help lead the world to the “Better Life” of 2030. The four cornerstones are identified as health & nutrition, teamwork, sustainability and the success of Chinese people in America.

Overseeing the USAP project for BRC Imagination Arts is Tisa Poe, BRC vice president, brand and entertainment experiences. Her team includes Greg Lombardo, director, brand experiences, Gerry Smith, project manager, John Emshwiller, art director and of course the overarching leadership of company founder and chief creative officer Bob Rogers, who has some 20 expo pavilions to his credit going back to the groundbreaking “Spirit Lodge” pavilion for General Motors at Vancouver Expo 86 but also including such recent triumphs as the US Pavilion for Aichi Expo 2005 in Japan. “Expos are our sweet spot,” says Poe, whose own expo pavilion credits include project management for the “Postcards” large format film that was the centerpiece of the Korean Airlines Pavilion at Taejon Expo 93. “We are honored to be asked to tell this story. We take our responsibility very seriously and will deliver the message of the USA pavilion properly, respectfully, and presented in a manner that engages the audience.”

The 2-story, 6,000 square meter pavilion will itself be sustainably built and energy efficient, and many of its components will be recycled or re-used after the expo. It will have an urban farm on its roof. Shanghai Expo 2010 opens in less than a year and will run for six months, from May 1-October 31, 2010. In addition to the physical expo, there will be a complete, detailed virtual presence online that includes all pavilions.

Bob Rogers exclaims, “The 2010 expo is going to rank as one of the great events of the 21st century – a once in a lifetime opportunity for advancing brands, business connections and diplomatic ties between China and the USA. To not show up would have been an insult, the equivalent of boycotting the Olympics. Local surveys show that even before this announcement, already over 60% of the Shanghai residents rank the US Pavilion as one of the top pavilions they want to see. This is an opportunity and a responsibility. As a country and as an economy, we must not disappoint. The US simply must have a pavilion and it must be great. We will deliver on that high expectation.”

The project caught the attention of many Chinese-Americans who have expressed interest in being volunteer staff for the pavilion. Winslow noted that his team brought a coordinator on board to handle such issues.

The USAP maintains a legacy website at http://pavilion.expo.cn/c5001/ssize/en/index.html.