Seventy-five days before the opening of the Shanghai 2010 world fair, Naço Architectures has made public its project for the 2000 m2 pavilion they are building there for the principality of Monaco. Present in Shanghai since 2005, as one of the few French offices firmly implanted in China Naço was duty bound to produce a high profile piece for the event. Over 70 million people are expected to visit the fair laid out along both banks of the Huangpu, which will run from 1st May to 31st October, celebrating the theme ‘Better city, better life’ and saluting 25 years of unprecedented growth for Shanghai.

Naço has come up with an image-building that perfectly expresses the identity of the client and also tokens the global approach to architectural design adopted by Marcelo Joulia, founder of Naço, which walks a line between hard constructions and soft media creations conceived as accelerators for encounters in urban space. Naço has captured the essence of Monaco: ‘a rock surrounded by the dancing light of a perfect sea’. So the result is a hunk of the Monegasque coast that projects the ceaseless ripples of the Mediterranean, literally transposed onto a 12 m-high vertical envelope in Pudong!

Visually apt, and as poetic as it is direct, the 3D digital morphing of a Mediterranean inlet displays dancing pixels that owe nothing to optical illusion. The system relies on a network of feeder pipes that are constantly topping up real miniature sea pools hidden behind the façade, and whose constant pattern-changes are reflected onto the glass envelope to light up the pavilion. As soon as the sun goes down, artificial lighting takes over. Sunlight is used as an architectural device that ensures flow, and the logic is pushed to its end term because the building is also solar-powered. With this project Naço is making a strong return into the area of emblematic projects, even if it represents only a small part of their overall activity. Resolutely international, with offices on three continents, in Paris, Shanghai and Buenos Aires, today Naço is one of the only French practices capable of simultaneously designing and building a multiplex cinema in Lyons, a polo club in Argentina and a private house in China. Proof that the economic slow-down is a question of viewpoint and – even more – of adapted response.

In the Guarani language naço means ‘intuition’, which is just one of the attributes that represents the need for absolute freedom in Marcelo Joulia, who set up his own practice in 1991. As creative as he is rigorous, as smiling as he is stubborn, and as friendly as he is radically independent, in the space of 20 years Joulia has shaped a global office that is unique in France, blending architecture, design and communication in a determined will to create the best possible solution for producing and embodying desires. More than a mere media agitator generating project scenarios, Naço was quick to learn and move on from the period of object architecture, leaving behind creative adolescence to confront reality. By developing manifesto projects such as ‘The spires of Time’ , which aimed at topping the two towers of Notre Dame in Paris with metal spires to salute the year 2000 (a scheme that caught the imagination of the Parisian intelligentsia), Naço has honed its skills in producing projects that communicate, apply research, and cover the entire spectrum of architectural creation. Hotels, multiplex cinemas, private homes, boats, bikes, furniture .. Naço has put its talents to use in all these areas, working by preference alone.

Joulia is always eager to leave behind synthetic rendering and get down to the scale-1 prototype. Getting a handle on knowing how to move into reality, where so much is needed to control an environment. To begin with there were the first extensions of his practice in the form of the Unico restaurant and the Cédille gallery, points of conviviality and rallying. For Marcelo Joulia, who came to France from Argentina at the age of 17, there was always the feeling that he needed a larger arena to develop his activities. Setting up in China was another step into the unknown, yet his firm now employs 22 people there when so many others have folded. Buenos Aires is the third pole in the Naço world network: the identical reproduction of a philosophy that is busy producing tangible proof of its fertility. No doubt there is more to come in the way of Naço restaurants and galleries in Shanghai and Buenos Aires. Pin points on the map that trace a singular trajectory, one that is human and fully effective.

Monaco Pavilion by Naço Architectures
Shanghai 2010
1st May to 31st October 2010
www.naco.net

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