The German Pavilion at Expo 2012 Yeosu Korea

Following several runner-up results in world Expo competitions, gtp2 finally succeeded together with partner creative agency facts and fiction in Cologne! Not only did we win the pitch, but the pavilion later was awarded a gold medal for its thematic excellence.


Expo 2012 focused on the world oceans with its theme “The Living Ocean and Coast”. The German Pavilion interpreted the main theme with a balanced mix of in-depth and serious scientific information und fun entertainment for adults and children alike. The latest and complex research and development themes were presented in a light way, easy to access and understand, giving a lot of visitors the opportunity to experience interactive and attractive displays, all orchestrated within an overall concept. The pavilion presented all displays and all content in 5 languages, thus catering for the international visitor profile of a world expo.


The German Pavilion took the visitor on a journey from the German coast deep down to the bottom of the ocean. The pavilion was given the name “SEAVOLUTION” and was divided into 3 thematic environments, “Coasts”, “Biotope” (ocean ecosystems) and “Treasure Chamber” (resources on the sea bed). In these theme worlds, the visitor was engaged through 20 interactive and playful displays. Each display used a different way to communicate and engage the visitor and gave various levels of information depth. Augmented reality and a specially created smart phone app gave the visitor an opportunity to conveniently take all the thrills und information back home in his pocket.


To help entertain queuing crowds in the waiting area in front of the pavilion, visitors could test their knowledge about Germany with a quiz and were invited to download a smart phone app. A robot mascot greeted visitors and made many childrens’ day. Han-S, as he was called and his little crab companion Han-2-Beta accompanied visitors throughout the pavilion, appearing in the displays, offering advice and guidance through the interactive journey.


When entering the pavilion, a pre-show film greeted visitors showing the German coasts of the North and Baltic Seas. The entire projection wall then suddenly opened up with giant rotating gates, inviting the visitor into a beach and dune landscape with multimedia beach chairs set in a sandy floor. With interactive animations, topics were presented relating to “Coasts”, such as environmentally friendly ships, wind and tidal power stations or tsunami early warning systems. Giant backdrops were carefully integrated in the architectural space and in combination with intelligent lighting, sound design and real fluttering flags, an illusion of a sunny and vibrant beach scenario was created.


Next, one reached the darker thematic environment of the “Biotope” zone, where the ocean habitat was shown as the largest ecosystem on earth. Subjects such as waste in the sea, the hazards of overfishing and other surprises of the ocean deep were presented with hands-on displays. Special wall graphics showed a range of living creatures which appear and disappear with changes in the ambient lighting colour from red to green to blue.


Next, the visitors discover the golden “Treasure Chamber”, which focused on the resource diversity of the ocean floor. A several million year old manganese nodule from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean was the symbol of the enormous quantities of natural resources in the deep sea that are still waiting to be extracted. Other exhibits such as the eco-friendly excavation of ores and methane hydrates show how man is currently trying to explore the sea bed, which to a large extent is still virtually unknown. The “Treasure Chamber” space was enclosed in a golden crystalline structure and all displays were integrated in casings resembling treasure chests.


In-depth information was provided at all display stations in the German Pavilion with many animations and film clips, avoiding the use of text panels. Over 120 film clips were especially created for the German Pavilion, making technical subjects easy and fun to absorb. A hidden sound system with focussing loudspeakers gave background information in any of the 5 languages (Korean, English, Chinese, Japanese and German), selected by a push button at each display station. Every theme zone contained a special display for children, where an interactive game combined humour, fun and subtlety to convey the basic subject matter of a particular theme and helped the young visitor to understand the more serious messages of the pavilion and its main show.


The absolute highlight of the German Pavilion was the main show, where the visitor could experience a deep sea dive set in the future in 2050. Visitors experienced a world premier by being totally surrounded in an immersive projection environment. Like in a glass sphere, visitors dove to the sea bed to future mining sites and experienced the extraction of natural resources by robotic creatures. A 4 minute thrilling computer animation in 6 fold HD resolution set new standards in high-tech savvy Korea and with a touch of humour and emotions got children and adults alike waving at whales and sitting on the edge of glass seats set on a glass floor. A state-of-the-art sound system with 64 loudspeakers underlined the 3D underwater experience.


In the design of the display elements in all 3 exhibition spaces the design of the interior complemented with graphics, lighting, interactive terminals and sound composition is carefully fine-tuned to create a unique ambience, making the journey from the coast down to the deep of the ocean a very special and memorable experience.


With a total space of around 1,700 square metres, the German Pavilion stretched over 2 levels. To round off a visit, one could enjoy some traditional German food and beers in the German Restaurant and pick up a souvenir in the shop.

SEAVOLUTION – Making of of the German Pavilion Expo 2012
Credit: Hamburg Messe and Congress GmbH

SEAVOLUTION – Walkthrough through the German Pavilion Expo 2012
Credit: Hamburg Messe and Congress GmbH


client: BMWi Ministry of Economics and Energy
organiser: Hamburg Messe and Congress
partner agency: facts and fiction
building contractor: Holtmann GmbH
pavilion footprint area: 1,113 m²
total floor space: 1,700 m² over 2 levels
project budget: 9.0 m €