Dubai Expo 2020: Forging New Design Paths

Pavilion design has long been an opportunity for innovative and radical concepts to be tested before they find their way into permanent projects. And Dubai Expo 2020, which takes the theme “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”, is set to be a bold showcase of innovation. With many of the pavilion designs now unveiled, we look at some of the most notable to be selected

The Source of Everything

Architects: Penda and Smartvoll

Selected to form part of Austria’s pavilion, this novel design takes the form of a giant watermill, dubbed ‘The Source of Everything’. Circulating water throughout the pavilion, it houses a two-story space, with dining facilities at ground floor level and a deck above where attendees can cool off under showers of water. “[Our pavilion] not only welcomes the rain, it even produces it. Our building leaks, drops, vapours, steams and rains. In this sense the Austrian Pavilion is one large sprinkler that refreshes its visitors,” said Chris Precht, co-found of Penda.

Image courtesy of Penda

Sustainability Pavilion

Architects: Grimshaw

One of the three main pavilions selected for the expo, Grimshaw’s design captures one of the expo’s main themes: sustainability. Developed in consultation with Buro Happold, the structure mimics photosynthesis to capture energy from the sun and draw water from the air’s humidity. The structure is intended not only to be a key focal point for Expo 2020, but to demonstrate the potential of architecture to be self-sustaining even in the harshest of environments.

Image courtesy of Grimshaw

Spain’s National Pavilion

Architects: Selgascano and FRPO

Although not yet confirmed as the final choice for Spain, this bold yet retrofuturistic design is a finalist in the country’s competition. Featuring an inflatable canopy of ETFE cylinders within a steel framework, it is a reinterpretation of a traditional Spanish plaza. However, it also ‘breathes’, with two of the nine inflatables able to move up and down in response to breeze and light. Below, native vegetation and moving water form a compact oasis, overlooked by a tapas bar.

Image courtesy of Selgascano and FRPO

The UK’s National Pavilion

Designer: Es Devlin

Boldly industrial with an ethereal, futuristic edge, the UK’s pavilion is designed to showcase British AI and space expertise. Visitors will arrive at the pavilion through a maze illuminated by augmented reality exhibits focusing on British achievements in AI, and will be invited to contribute to a “message to space” that will be illuminated on the structure’s edge. “What if the UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 becomes a place where visitors from all over the world take part in a collective global project that showcases British expertise in AI technologies and poetry while transcending national identities?” said Es Devlin.

Image courtesy of Es Devlin

Austria’s National Pavilion

Architects: Querkraft Architekten

Merging traditional building materials with modern construction techniques, Austria’s National Pavilion is peculiarly organic, with a grid of truncated cones producing striking lighting and shadow effects. The pavilion, which is designed to showcase the country and a centre of innovation, will focus on the sustainable use of resources in the future.

Image courtesy of Querkraft Architekten