With our first article in the Kraftwerk Insider series, we will give you some deeper insights on the Hungarian Pavilion at EXPO 2020 Dubai, through the eyes of our lead project manager, Peter Gellen.
With over 12 years of event management experience, working all over Europe and working with international brands like Coca-Cola, Hublot, Red Bull, Nissan and BMW, Peter Gellen is with us from 2018, and he was the lead project manager of the Hungarian Pavilion from Kraftwerk, realizing this truly once in a lifetime experience.
This project started with a year-long organization and preparation phase, during which getting to know the building, participating in the concept creation and planning the technical implementation were key. Following the planning phase, structural consultations took place to allow all participants to know the details and prepare for the implementation phase. Once the construction had begun, we had weekly on-site inspections and the continuous study of different blueprints and technical drawings to approach the best possible and least problematic routes in the construction phase. The construction and testing phase lasted for about 4-5 months, during which sometimes the air conditioning was not functional, but work had to continue, in the extreme heat, in the middle of the summer.
My most important roles as a lead project manager were, among the many things; liaising with the client, the proper logistics and documentations, performing financial tasks, coordinating content and production, and adhering to perhaps the most important thing, deadlines. It was a very nice and challenging project that I can look back upon with pride.
In your opinion, what were the key factors leading to the huge success of the exhibition?
With thorough planning and preparation, an experience-focused, proportionately interactive and analogue exhibition was realized. As a result of which the Hungarian Pavilion won a silver medal in the best-presented “Theme Interpretation” category. During the operating periods over the 6 months, more than a 1,000,000 visitors were able to enjoy the audio-visual experiences through the various exhibited elements, making the Hungarian Pavilion one of the most visited national pavilions. In addition to the spectacular elements, the exhibition also had educational content. Both children and adults alike could learn about Hungary’s natural treasures and their beneficial influence. In my opinion the success of the exhibition lies in the fact that it was built on a well-developed theme that was easy to digest for youth and older generations as well, filled with spectacular elements, many of which were favorites at “Expo Instagram moments” such as the Dome projection and the ball pit experience in the imitated pool. As part of the immersive experience in the pavilion for example, we had used fragrance diffuser devices aligned with the exhibited elements. The pavilion has probably become so successful as a result of our attention to so many small details and of course the hard work of all the various teams involved.
Tell us a few insights or hidden gems about the exhibition that was known only by the organizers.
There are quite a few curiosities that ultimately remained hidden from the general public, such as the fact that one of our most successful exhibition elements, the hanging minerals in the mineral tower, was made using real sludge and was born as a result of more than five rounds of trials to achieve the perfect light-transmitting shape, molded into a real mineral, using resin. Thanks to the rooms mirrored surfaces, this station has become one of the most Instagramable locations in the pavilion.
At our station showcasing Lake Hévíz, we created replicas of water lilies with mechanical flowers made out of stone paper. Using micro motors, which had to open and close approximately 850,000 times during the exhibition, we considered this as one of the main challenges from the beginning, however the low-voltage motors and robust workings we used finally proved to be a good decision. The Crown Prince of Dubai was particularly interested in Lake Hévíz during his visit to the pavilion and he asked for information about the location and wanted to understand why it is unique.
What was your experience in organizing such a big project during Covid 19?
The pandemic posed a number of challenges for the organizers, the participating countries and of course, for us. In addition to the strict regulations due to Covid, worldwide logistics response also made preparations difficult. We made quick and smart decisions in order to avoid delays and to proceed with the workflow as per the original plan, however, we had to take into account, a number of factors that we did not or could not have thought so much before the pandemic, such as disinfection and social distancing. For instance, we eventually allowed guests into our ball pit in the dome, despite the difficulties, but only after introducing a number of precautions, such as, weekly disinfection in the pool, using a special play ball disinfecting and drying machine to ensure that we can perform the cleaning task over night (actually 4-5 hours, taking into consideration the time limits provided by the organizers as well), thus guaranteeing safe conditions for our visitors. Other than this, the operation team of the pavilion was using special surface treatment methods regularly for permanent disinfection of all surfaces that may have been touched by the visitors.
Photo credits: Akos Kaiser
Production/Integration/Operation: Kraftwerk Design and Production LLC. and Special Effects Ltd. – The Production Company
Concept/Design/Content: Designland Creative Community
Client: Hungary at Expo 2020
Location: Expo 2020 Dubai