MVRDV to transform its deserted Netherlands pavilion into co-working space

All’s Fair In Adaptive Reuse

MVRDV to transform its deserted Netherlands pavilion into co-working space

MVRDV’s iconic early work, the Netherlands Pavilion, will be renovated and reactivated as part of a larger development scheme in Hanover. (Courtesy © MVRDV)

Exactly how the afterlives of temporary pavilions designed and erected for world expositions play out is largely varied and unpredictable. For the most part, or at least contemporarily, the crowd-drawing ephemeral structures are dissembled and then rebuilt and repurposed in their home countries where they serve as cultural centers and the like. Often, they stay put.

After two decades of staying put—and falling into an advanced state of decay–one of the most memorable elements of Expo 2000 (save, of course, for the Kraftwerk theme song) held at Germany’s massive Hanover Fairground, will finally be bestowed with a new purpose. As recently announced by Rotterdam-based MVRDV, Holland Creates Space, the singularly stacked national pavilion of the Netherlands, will become the centerpiece of a new, mass transit-adjacent mixed-use development at its original site. Dubbed Expo 2.0, MVRDV’s ambitious adaptive reuse plan will see the original pavilion converted into a co-working hub and flanked by two new buildings dedicated to student housing and commercial office space. While once relatively remote, the Hanover Fairground complex has become enveloped with new development to keep up with a growth spurt that’s taken hold of Northern Germany’s third-largest city in the years since Expo 2000 was held.

In a statement, MVRDV noted that its Netherlands Pavilion “stole the show” at Expo 2000, and the hyperbole is mostly justified. At over 100 feet tall, the pavilion quite literally towered over the event and garnered international acclaim for its innovative approach to shining a spotlight on a “country making the most out of limited space.”

image of expo-pavilion-turned-coworking-space by mvrdv in Hanover
The view of the Netherlands’ revamped 2020 Expo pavilion from the terrace of a new, neighboring building at the fairground redevelopment site. (Courtesy © MVRDV)

Simulating a half-dozen different Dutch eco-systems for expo-goers, “the pavilion conveyed the liberating message that nature can be created artificially and stacked vertically,” MVRDV elaborated. “It became a key reference for sustainable design, presenting an ideal of a building as a self- contained ecosystem, incorporating nature and generating its own internal resource cycles.”

In transforming such a particular—and seemingly difficult to redevelop—space into a commercial building, MVRDV has vowed to maintain much of the pavilion’s unique character, third-floor “forest” included:

“For example the 1st floor, which originally housed a grid of greenhouses, will keep its strict rectilinear layout as an office, while the pods on the 2nd floor – originally planters – will be glazed and converted into meeting rooms and office spaces. Other features that will be retained are the forest level and the exterior staircases; the ground-level ‘dunes’ will be retained as a meeting point with small cafés and exhibition areas, and the rooftop dome that was formerly home to a restaurant will now host a new fast-casual restaurant.”

illustration of a expo pavilion-turned-co-working space in hanover, germany by mvrdv
As Hanover has grown, new development has taken over the city’s fairground, the largest exhibition ground in the world. (Courtesy © MVRDV)

As for the new buildings that will skirt the revamped pavilion, both will feature dramatically steeped roofs that allow for large, cascading terraces that will serve a variety of functions such as al fresco study areas, gardens, recreational/athletic spaces, and more. The larger of the two buildings will be home to 370 student apartments with a 300-spot bicycle parking facility on the lower level. At five stories, the smaller of the two buildings will include two levels of non-bicycle parking (plus a subterranean garage) topped by three levels of office and meeting space.

Having been fenced off and left forsaken for so long, the old Netherlands pavilion has been subject to vandalism and some deterioration over the years, but certainly not enough to render adaptive reuse infeasible. The project will, per MVRDV, “build on the building’s reputation as an important reference for sustainable architecture” and serve as a “showcase for the reuse of existing structures, showing how buildings can be designed with future adaptations in mind.”

the netherlands pavilion at the hanover fairground
The Netherlands Pavilion, pictured in 2017, at the site of Expo 2000 in Hanover. (Gerd Fahrenhorst/Wikimedia Commons)

“The original design was certainly a unique design for a very specific purpose, but despite its outspoken design its core structure is highly reusable and more flexible than originally imagined,” said MVRDV founding partner Jacob van Rijs. “The differences between the floors will be maintained and converted into a functional office environment that nevertheless retains the unique experimental features of the Expo Pavilion. You will be able to work on the Dunes, or in the forest, or between the treepots.”