Dream Cube


ESI Design

Practice Area


Shanghai Corporate Community

Project Vision

Dream Cube: 2010 World Expo Shanghai Corporate Pavilion

ESI Design collaborated with the Shanghai corporate community and a group of world-renowned architects and artists to design the 40,000-sq.-ft. Dream Cube for the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai. The pavilion encouraged visitors to participate in a multimedia experience comprised of cutting-edge technology, dreamlike environments, collaborative social spaces, and sustainably designed materials.

Inspired by the citizens of Shanghai, the Dream Cube led visitors through a story of the city’s past, present, and future. The experience also transformed moment-by-moment via visitors’ collective participation. Crowd-sourced photos uploaded by the public at the Dream Cube website blended with video on immense media walls. Beds of glowing LED crystalline reeds changed color with the sweep of visitors’ hands. A 360-degree interactive theater showcased the audience’s gestures and physical actions, which triggered dramatic changes to millions of LED lights on the Dream Cube’s façade.

Inside the Dream Cube, visitors traveled through a 20-minute journey inspired by fourth-century Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi’s dream that he was a butterfly (or, alternately, a butterfly dreaming it was Zhuangzi)—a metaphor for transformation.

The journey began as visitors queued beneath the massive yet ethereal structure, where thousands of LED rods pulse with light. From the queue, visitors ascended on an escalator, surrounded by bluish light and soft music, into the heart of the Dream Cube. There, they strolled along the “Dreamer’s Path,” a visual story of the city of Shanghai through time, from its origins as a small rural village to a vibrant mega-metropolis. Along the path, interactive areas filled with flying butterflies, scenes of changing seasons, crowd-sourced images of city life, sculptural lighting, and surprise video “portals” that responded to visitor interaction.

The path ultimately led visitors into a massive circular theater—the Dream Cube Control Room—where they gathered to participate in a 360-degree interactive video experience narrated by the famous actress and director Xu Jinglei, who plays “Professor Butterfly” in the Dream Cube story. The giant screen surrounded the audience in the sights and sounds of Shanghai through visual flyovers and special effects, while Professor Butterfly invited them to reflect on the challenges and opportunities facing Shanghai. She praised the strength of Shanghai’s citizens and encouraged them to work together to create a better city for all. In the final climactic moments, Professor Butterfly revealed live-feed images of the exterior façade, as she rallied the crowd to wave their arms high in the air. In response, the Dream Cube’s exterior pulsed with color in time with their collective actions, engaging them in the emotional and transformative power of collaboration.

Project Details
A truly engaging interactive experience, with the actions of the audience changing the look and feel of the entire exhibit hall. A dynamic environment that holds together cohesively at every turn.
Juror 1
An amazing experiential space. Children and adults can interact with this living structure. The use of color and light set the tone for each room. It could easily have been overdone, yet the controlled graphic quality actually makes the spaces understandable and exciting at the same time.
Juror 2
Design Team

Edwin Schlossberg (principal designer), Frank Migliorelli (interactive design director), James Tu (interactive designer), Clay Gish (writing /research director), Chris Muller (physical designer), Angela Greene (art director), Laura Gunther (graphic designer), Michael Luck Schneider (interactive systems designer), Trip Kyle (production director), Kris Haberman (project executive)

Design Firm

ESI Design


Atelier FCJZ Architects/Professor Yung Ho Chang (architects), Spinifex Group (media producer), Full Flood (lighting), Production Resource Group (systems integrator) 


Shanghai Pico Exhibition Services Co. (fabrication), Shanghai Guosheng Company Limited (construction)