Floriade’s Flower Power
“The greenest day out” is Floriade’s promise to guests. The world’s fair of horticultural shows blooms once every decade in the Netherlands. From April 14 to Oct. 9, 2022, Floriade’s organizers aim to welcome 2 million guests to a surprisingly green world, where giant greenhouses, gardens, attractions, playgrounds, an arboretum, and lively entertainment and education programs highlight the wonders of nature.
“This Floriade is so much more than the spectacular horticulture we’ve become known for. Thirty-three nations and hundreds of organizations have come together to present their vision for making our cities, our homes, and our lives better. While you can still enjoy the splendor of Dutch flowers and an incredibly diverse collection of plants, there’s also ample opportunity to taste, explore, learn, and be inspired,” says Evelyn Rietveld, PR manager for Floriade.
“Growing Green Cities” is the theme, and the setting couldn’t be more apt. Floriade 2022 takes place in Almere, the youngest city in the Netherlands, created on land reclaimed from the sea.
By 2050, 68% of the global population will live in cities, according to the United Nations, and Floriade shows how we might create greener and healthier cities, with sustainable energy solutions, food production, and technologies. “Floriade 2022 is an opportunity to discover potential solutions for urban challenges,” Rietveld says.
At Floriade, attendees are as likely to see the first Smart Circular Bridge (made from flax fibers and bio-resin) as pollinator-friendly gardens. Guests can also enjoy panoramic views from the cable car.
There are national pavilions, such as Germany’s Biotopia – Growing Community. The wooden building has a roof garden with climbing plants, edible flowers and fruit trees, green facades, solar panels, and wind turbines. Guests using smart bracelets can activate interactive exhibits on topics including urban gardening, hydroponics, and rainwater harvesting. There’s also a water playground, a stage, and a themed restaurant.
Qatar’s Desert Nest pavilion pays homage to the country’s Pigeon Towers (dovecotes). At the colorful Shades of Nature pavilion, glass jars of water and vegetable dyes used for wool create a stained-glass effect.
The Dutch Innovation Experience shows what living and working with nature could look like. The 10,000-square-meter greenhouse contains strawberries, gerberas, and bell peppers grown in a circular agriculture system. “You’ll discover how the most modern techniques – robots, drones, and sensors – allow us to grow flowers, plants, vegetables, and fruit sustainably,” says Rietveld. The Natural Pavilion and The Exploded View Beyond Building exhibition, part of the Dutch Innovation Experience, feature 100 bio-based materials, showing how circular building concepts could work.
Floriade’s centerpiece is the arboretum, a living library of trees and plants. After the expo, the 60-hectare site, master-planned by MVRDV, will be redeveloped as Hortus, a sustainable residential district.
Jeremy Gray, vice president of business development, Middle East at WhiteWater, visited Floriade on opening day. “What they have created on reclaimed land is spectacular. The features and attractions are impressive, especially given it is a temporary venue,” he says. “The horticultural elements were incredible (amazing tulips were blooming during my visit), plus beautiful natural structures and buildings brought the different zones to life.” Gray was involved with the project early on, first in the planning phase, and then as part of the accesso team that provided ticketing services to Floriade.
Gray’s takeaway is that “sustainability can be fun.” He believes we should “celebrate and promote what is being done to push change and enjoy the new ideas shaping the future.”
The challenge for any world expo—which are by their nature political, business, cultural, and technological projects—is to open on time. Floriade has also had to contend with the pandemic.
Bart Dohmen, co-owner of tourism consulting company TDAC BV, was invited with Dutch attractions industry experts to review Floriade’s plans a year before its launch. “We knew then it would be a big challenge to get it open,” he says. “On opening day, I was surprised by how much they had accomplished, but the fact is, not everything was ready. It’s not only about being finished on time; it’s about the whole guest journey.” Some Tripadvisor reviews reflected that. Rietveld says that all feedback from visitors is taken very seriously and acted upon accordingly.
“The site felt intimate and had a good vibe,” adds Dohmen. He was pleased to see a wide-ranging cultural program, including classical concerts, live DJs, theater shows, roaming performers, world music acts, artworks, and children’s events.
“Floriade is about enjoying yourself. With an engaging entertainment program for different audiences in a nice setting, you can do that perfectly,” he says.
“All international pavilions and gardens are now open,” confirms Rietveld, and the team is working tirelessly “to create the best possible experience for our guests.”
During its opening weekend, Floriade attracted national and international visitors, mainly from Germany, Denmark, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. “The attention from abroad is immense,” she says.
“We’ve known from day one that 2 million visitors is an ambitious target; it would make us one of the country’s biggest attractions,” says Rietveld. The team is focusing on spreading the word about Floriade and raising awareness of its “Growing Green Cities” message. “We want to be top of mind. We have had a difficult start, but we are on track now, and we are receiving a satisfactory number of happy visitors,” she says.
As the cultural program blossoms, Floriade’s finishing touches are added, and the planting matures, more visitors should discover an experience that inspires, educates, and empowers them, sowing the seeds for a greener future.