Knowledge of the seas / Conhecimento dos mares

Expo Lisbon 1998 - Architecture, pavilions, gardens, urban furniture, pictures, drawings, videos
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Knowledge of the seas / Conhecimento dos mares

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Text from a CD of Expo 2000 Hannover - The History of World Fairs

For the Oceanography Pavilion, the architect João Luîs Carrilho da Carça chose two white cubes, a recumbent block and a narrow tower 12 metres high.

This building, with almost no openings, was conceived in its bare clarity as a resting place in the colourful fever of the Expo. At night, however, the façade became a screen for giant projections.

On the north side, a square courtyard with a ramp led to the entrance on the first floor. There, the visitor reached the various exhibition rooms through narrow corridors where projections were shown. In contrast to the light-coloured exterior walls, the interior architecture was entirely geared to the requirements of the exhibits and to the design of the exhibition and its guidelines. However, the architects also took into consideration the future use of the pavilion, which was to house a Science and Research Centre. The navigation area, where huge ship hulls could be seen, was dedicated to the history of past navigation systems and different types of ships.

Through a corridor where old maps recalled Magellan's first circumnavigation of the world by ship in 1519-1520, visitors reached the research area devoted to cartography and the examination of physical phenomena. Here, maps of Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama were projected on the floor and walls. The next area provided information on deep-sea diving and submarine technology.

Finally, on the ground floor there was an exhibition on the use of the sea's resources, which was divided into several areas, namely the port, fishing and oil extraction. In the 35-metre high central room of the pavilion, a huge ship was installed, with the phases of its construction presented in stages. Other full-size ships were also on display in the navigation pavilion at the former shipbuilding yard.



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Knowledge of the seas / Conhecimento dos mares

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Text extracted from "Guia Expo'98"

Discover how man discovered the oceans and gradually took possession of them.

Duration of the visit: 45 m.
Opening hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
No. persons/visit: 1 500
Total visitors/day: 21 000 (2 100 per hour)
Architect: Carrilho da Graça
Exhibition project: Nuno Mateus and José Mateus/ARX Portugal Arquitectos, Lda
Area: 6 000 m2
Shop: Two good souvenirs are the exhibition catalogue, with texts by specialists on the topics covered, and the CD with the background music, by the Miso Ensemble duo


In the shaded areas of the queues, several television screens begin to lift the veil and draw visitors in to what they are about to see, with short films, in a humorous tone, on maritime legends and myths. As soon as you enter, the first ambient sounds evoke large bodies of water, the key theme of the five sectors of the exhibition: Surfing the Oceans, Investigating. Dive, explore and progress. Scientific consultants and specialists from 18 fields, including robotics, shipbuilding and acoustic engineering, were involved in the design of the pavilion, which will be handed over to the Ministry of Science and Technology after the Expo. Shipbuilding and acoustic engineering. In the first room, a boat suspended from the ceiling begins to convey the idea of progress at sea. In this room, early notions of man's relationship with the oceans are on display, and it is possible to appreciate everything from a Mozambican pirogue to fragments of the hull of a contemporary ship. Navigational aids - astrolabe, quadrant, balestilha, sextant - are presented against a background of stars, allowing us to understand how they work.

The next room is the Magellan Intersector, where a world map on the walls shows the route of the first circumnavigation voyage.

In the second sector, the scenography is based on a huge planisphere. The music changes with allusions to the different points of the globe. It is possible to perceive the historical evolution of navigation, with references ranging from sculptures of mythical sea monsters, conceived from the drawings of ancient cartographers, to the rigorous information of modern scientists. Along the way, there are allusions to explorers such as Darwin. Humboldt or Scott. After the Challenger intersecting area, which recalls the 19th century expedition that was the first to explore the ocean floor, we enter the third thematic area.

The visitor enters through South America and exits through Australia, after having 'walked' around the entire planet. The eight-minute walk corresponds to a full day, and the light varies in intensity, symbolising the different hours from sunrise to sunset.

Knowledge of the seas pavilion - Expo'98
Knowledge of the seas pavilion - Expo'98

In the next piece - Explore - a light effect recreates a port environment with references to man's progressive dependence on the seas. Between cranes and large containers, the themes are small-scale and deep-sea fishing, aquaculture, mineral resources and whaling. You can walk on a huge metal net, pulled by the stern of a trawler, side by side with the small fish caught by the fishermen. In the communications sub-section, where various examples of satellites hang, there is a lighthouse about four metres high.

The central Nave, the largest room in the pavilion, is 40 metres high and is a tribute to man's effort to build a ship that could cross the seas. It resembles a cathedral, compartmentalised by various cables suspended from the ceiling and by the bows of wooden, metal and fibre boats. It shows the different techniques and stages of shipbuilding, chronicling the conception, design and manufacture over time. It is possible to visit the interior of a ship and understand how it works.

The main attraction is the virtual theatre. Through a kind of hologram, the characters describe the different episodes in the evolution of diving techniques. The environment of the room becomes darker as the depth of the dive increases and images of the inhabitants of the sea are projected on the walls. And as the visitor "descends", the sounds of the surface are also lost, until only silence remains.


Knowledge of the seas pavilion - Expo'98
Knowledge of the seas pavilion - Expo'98

The tour ends in the area called Forward. The last room serves as a decompression zone, where acoustic elements play an important role. Hanging from the ceiling is a life-size replica of the Bushnell Turtle, the first man-made wooden propeller-driven submarine used during the American Civil War. This piece is a symbol of utopia and the ingenuity that advanced man's knowledge of the sea.



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