How did you come to be involved in the Swiss participation at Expo Shanghai?
I've been working on this project now for a long time – eight years, since 2002. I was already involved in this project in Aichi [Expo 2005] and in Zaragoza [Expo 2008]. I quit in 2004 for a year and I came back as I wanted to be a part of this wonderful adventure in China.
The Swiss Pavilion is titled "Nature's Playground" and has a very playful feel to it, featuring the eye-catching attraction of the chairlift. Can you tell us about the concepts and design of the pavilion?
I think this Nature's Playground is not just about the chairlift – you have a very nice façade that is also interactive; you can play with the façade. This is the first interactive thing we have. And then of course you have the chairlift, which is a very nice adventure for all the visitors, even for the foreign visitors. We wanted to have something where people are part of the exhibition. It's good – you can look at the place outside, you have this urban lounge, people are just coming here for a picnic, and this is what we wanted: people staying in the Swiss Pavilion to spend some time here.
The principal theme of the pavilion is "Urban-Rural Interaction," highlighting the importance of harmonious relations between urban and rural zones for sustainable urban development. Could you tell us about the significance of this theme for Switzerland?
We live in a very small country, in the middle of Europe. This is something that is very important for Switzerland. We have a very small territory, and most of this territory is occupied by mountains. 60-65% is occupied with mountains, and the rest of it is urban spaces and cities. Switzerland has to work every day on solutions to have those two worlds work in harmony. We have, since years, been working on technology and innovative solutions to have those two worlds living together in balance. We feel really good in this pavilion. The base of the concept is the traditional principal belief in the young, the calm and the hectic worlds— and this is what we live in Switzerland every day: the mountains, the countryside, the city – they are very close together. The Swiss government has been working on it for years. It's easy for us to share that here in this pavilion.
What image of Switzerland would you like visitors to leave the pavilion with?
I'd like to make them aware of the quality of life you have in Switzerland. To show them that Switzerland is not just about chocolates and the watch industry. We are working on this topic because we are innovative, modern, and concerned with a better quality of life every day.
What has your experience been like being part of a team to represent Switzerland at an event of this scale and magnitude?
This is a huge investment. We have been working on it for years. The past months were very, very intensive. This is not easy, to come and work with a completely different culture, language – you have to discover the culture in which everyone is working. This was not that easy for me, personally, and this was a big challenge.
What have the visitor responses to your pavilion been like?
Even when the chairlift is not running because it's raining, we notice that the visitors are very, very curious about what we show and they love the IMAX – this is a big spectacle for them. It's like being on the Alps, and this is an emotion that visitors won't forget.
Countries have greatly invested in their participation at this Expo in order to take full advantage of this unique opportunity for nation branding. What are Switzerland's hopes and expectations for its participation at this Expo?
I think there are several kinds of targets. Let's take the visitors. It's important to show some of them that Switzerland exists and what we are and what our characteristics are. For other people who already know about Switzerland, we show them what we do, the technologies we have on several themes, such as air quality, water quality, mobility, construction... This is also an informal platform where we can make lots of contacts. We invite companies and hold events in the VIP lounge – the companies have a look at the pavilion, and then they can interact with one another in the lounge. This is an informal platform where many, many contacts can be made.
Do you have any final messages for the visitors at the Expo?
They have to come and see until the end. We are very happy to welcome them in the Swiss Pavilion. They are part of this success.