Shell scheme for Portugal

Exhibition designer Neal Potter is becoming a connoisseur of bacalhau, Portugal’s salt cod delicacy, given his involvement in the impending Lisbon Expo ’98. Having created the show’s warm up act – A walk through the 20th century, which opened earlier this year (DW 23 January) – he has also designed the 500 000 Shell Pavilion at the main event, which opens on 22 May.

Taking the theme Oceans – our heritage for the future, oil company Shell Portuguesa decided to focus on shells before bringing in Potter in September 1996. Working with London’s Natural History Museum and science writer Dr Miranda MacQuitty, Neal Potter Design Associates has tried to show the diversity of shells through a theatrical performance and static exhibits.

Visitors enter the pavilion via a 130-seat theatre, which features a giant ‘shell’ stage with an elliptical screen. A ten-minute presentation starts with a projection of Neptune on the rear wall before outlining the history and ecology of shells. Six other screens are set around the auditorium.

Expo’s official languages are Portuguese, English and Spanish. According to Potter, on-screen graphics are used to deal with potential language problems.

Moving beyond the screen, visitors are invited to take in more conventional displays of shells housed in ten showcases. Here shells, arranged into categories such as ‘clams’, ‘coloured shells’ or ‘Portuguese’ are displayed in what Potter describes as ‘a classic, but hopefully magical way’.

The ‘pavilion’ – which will be converted into a conference centre when Expo closes on 30 September – is on the third site Potter has created designs for. He says it’s been frustrating going through the changes, but is happy the building will have a long life. Just like the shells it houses.

Designer: Neal Potter Design Associates

Audio visuals: The Visual Connection

Client: Shell Portuguesa in conjunction with Expo ’98

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