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Everything must go at Expo.02!

The Monolith at Murten is a favourite of Expo's technical director, Ruedi Rast

(Keystone)

Nothing lasts forever, and after 159 days Switzerland's national exhibition Expo.02 has finally closed to the public.

But the exhibition won't disappear overnight. It will take many weeks before all the exhibits are cleared from the four sites.

With the end looming, urgent questions are being asked about what will happen to the many unique constructions - such as the floating Monolith or the Cloud - which have become symbols of Expo.02.

Some of the temporary exhibits appear to have found a lasting place in the public's affections. And there is sadness that they may soon face destruction.

A group of private individuals is battling to keep the Monolith floating on the Lake of Murten after the town authorities there said they weren't interested in keeping it.

Exorbitant maintenance costs

The problem with the Monolith, and many other giant exhibits, is that maintenance costs are expected to be exorbitant.

None of the exhibits was built to last and huge costs would be incurred in altering them to withstand the ravages of time and the elements.

With the exception of the celebrated Cloud at Yverdon, none of the metal structures has been treated for corrosion.

Another factor militating against the exhibits is that the exhibition organisers were only granted the right to display them on a temporary basis. With the exhibition over, permission would have to be sought to keep them standing.

What's more, the exhibits all stand in prime locations in the hearts of the four exhibition sites - Yverdon, Neuchatel, Biel and Murten. These zones are the most protected of all and building on them is restricted.

Decision time

Time is running out for the organisers to find homes for the major exhibits. Most of the Expo infrastructure - including restaurants and theatres - is expected to be dismantled by the end of the year.

After that it will be the turn of the superstructures.

Australia and Saudi Arabia are among the countries interested in acquiring some of the Swiss exhibits, but organisers say that on cost and technical grounds it's unlikely that structures such as the giant pebbles, currently on display at the Neuchatel pavilion, will end up in foreign hands.

So unless domestic buyers are found most of the exhibits will end up being dismantled - something Expo.02's technical director, Ruedi Rast, regrets.

Rast told swissinfo he would miss two exhibits in particular: "The first is a dream come true... the Cloud. The other, related but opposite, is the Monolith- a closed metal cube that still floats. These represent the dream dimension and the earthly dimension. For me the association of these two represents a great rainbow, with the exhibition in between."

swissinfo with agencies

In brief:

The end of Expo.02 is not the end of the story - all the exhibits still have to be disposed of.

The question is, what will happen to them?

The exhibits may be popular with the public, who want to see them retained, but high maintenance costs make them unattractive to potential buyers.

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