- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 28, 2002

ZURICH A 4,000-ton monolith, once a grand symbol of this summer's Swiss National Expo, is now a huge block of unwanted merchandise that sits in a lake without a buyer.
Auctioneers selling off ice cream makers, office supplies and thousands of other Expo.02 remnants set an opening price of $1.5 million for the monolith on display in Lake Morat, near the French border. It attracted one bid of $275,000.
"We tried but nobody was giving us a price that we expected," said Stephan Rausch, in charge of taking the monolith off the hands of the construction company that owns it.
So he extended the lease, and will take more bids on Monday. The sale will proceed if Mr. Rausch gets enough money he didn't specify an amount and is satisfied with how the buyer intends to use his or her new monolith.
(The German businessman who offered $275,000 planned to reconstruct the monolith elsewhere and turn it into a wine cellar and restaurant.)
"If there are no more [offers] we order the demolition of the monolith," Mr. Rausch said. The materials will be recycled as a last option, perhaps a fitting end in a nation that takes its recycling very seriously.
The monolith, a creation of French architect Jean Nouvel, is a floating cube with 100-foot sides that is accessible only by boat. The facades are made of rusted metal, and the structure is anchored in the lake with 28 steel cables, according to Expo.02 information.
"There it lies at anchor, mysterious and somehow aloof," reads a passage from the official expo guide. The town of Morat and its lake have turned "into a vast, mystical exhibition landscape."
During the exhibition the monolith contained a theater for viewing images of Switzerland and a restored 34-foot painting, "The Panorama of the Battle of Morat," which dates to the 19th century.
More than 10 million people attended the patriotic Expo.02, a once-in-a-generation event, from May to October at five sites near Bern. Each participating town was given its own symbol, such as the three transparent futuristic towers in Bienne, and Morat's monolith.
Mr. Rausch said the Swiss government would never be able to sell its people on the idea of buying the monolith for the sake of the country. Lawmakers have been criticized for spending too much money around $620 million just to hold the expo.
Asked why Morat does not buy the massive structure as a reminder of the event, town engineer Peter Friedli stated frankly: "We just can't pay it. That's a big bill."
Morat has only 5,800 taxpayers. Besides, Mr. Friedli said, with towns like Lucerne and Bern getting 30 times the tourists, no one would really see it.
Norbert Wild, a curator at the Zurich Museum of Design, said recycling may be the best option.


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