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Shanghai's Explosive Expo Pavilions
The United Kingdom, South Korea, and Spain put on quite a show in China, despite some lackluster neighbors
Thomas Heatherwick's unearthly UK pavilion.
Nic Lehoux
Visitors stream past the South Korean pavilion designed by Mass Studio. (Click to launch slideshow)
Photography by Nic Lehoux

At Shanghai’s Expo 2010, which runs through October, the two world powers—China and the U.S.—may be offering dispiriting visions of the future, the former with its kitschy, grandiose Oriental Crown; the latter with the bland convention-center look. (“It’s fine,” was all Hillary Clinton could muster on a recent visit.) But there were still plenty of pavilions that citizens of other nations could be proud of: By far, the showstopper has been London-based Thomas Heatherwick’s U.K. Pavilion, a marshmallow-shaped stunner called the Seed Cathedral that sprouts some 60,000 transparent rods, each with seeds at the tip that sway in the breeze, funnel light by day, and glow by night. South Korea’s contribution designed by Mass Studies of Seoul takes the concept of “sign and space” literally and extrapolates the Korean Han-guel alphabet into three dimensions while pixilating it in two, with thousands of Han-guel panels on the exterior by Korean artist Ik-joong Kang. And for Spain, the Barcelona architects Miralles Tagliabue/ EMBT created a twisting, writhing structure clad in exquisitely crafted wicker scales. Three cheers for making smaller better.

Aric Chen