Our Favorite Pavilions from EXPO Dubai

The pause on architectural tourism we travel lovers were forced to experience last year seems to be showing optimistic signs of change, as EXPO 2020 Dubai has debuted (in spite of a one year delay) and it did not disappoint. Enthusiasm has quickly built as representatives from across the globe are looking to the UAE for this month’s inauguration, taking part in events in architectural pavilions and shows that are set to last till spring 2022. Some 190 country pavilions fight for the attention of visitors, as part of the Expo’s national participation. The Thematic District, designed by Hopkins Architects, connects all three aforementioned sections, as well as the various country pavilions together. This is an architectural extravaganza to impress and inspire. IDF takes you on a tour of the most notable pavilions for those of us perusing this breathtaking fair from home. 

This year’s agenda is rich and varied, addressing key global concerns surrounding sustainable approaches; the future of transport and travel; and innovative takes for what’s to come, from exciting new ideas to activities for young people and communities. The Expo 2020 Dubai site is arranged accordingly, in three main areas, each of which features a flagship pavilion to best project the district’s core message. A structure named Terra, designed by Grimshaw Architects headlines the Sustainability section; Foster + Partners has spearheaded Mobility, and Kuwait-based AGi Architects is behind the Opportunity Pavilion.


Mission Possible – The Opportunity Pavilion


Joaquín Pérez-Goicoechea and Nasser Abulhasan, principals and founding partners of AGi Architects, led the design of the Opportunity Pavilion, which is fittingly named ‘Mission Possible’. While other pavilions focus on strategies, systems and objects that can help us change our future for the better, this district’s mission is more orientated towards the human element. Celebrating the role that young people and communities have to play in making positive change, the structure is designed as a place of gathering, a public space for everybody to come together, focusing on collaboration and coexistence.


Terra – The Sustainability Pavilion

Designed by the British architecture practice Grimshaw Architects to highlight the ingenuity and different strategies in the field of sustainability, this pavilion loosely resembles flowers or leaves turned up towards the sun. Indeed, the design team drew inspiration from natural processes, such as photosynthesis, to compose their piece. And the approach is not only reflected in its looks. The pavilion captures energy from sunlight, and water from humid air, aiming to demonstrate a new way of living sustainably.


The Finnish Pavilion

JKMM Architects is behind the Finnish Pavilion. ‘In designing the pavilion, we sought to bring a fragment of Finnish nature to UAE and Dubai,’ says JKMM’s Teemu Kurkela, who explains that it is titled Lumi, meaning ‘snow’ in Finnish. ‘The pavilion was inspired by the thin white layer of first snow that covers the Finnish landscape at the beginning of winter. The main entrance was inspired by a traditional Arabic tent. Two cultures meet in the architectural concept of the pavilion. Hopefully, this will be the best space in Expo for meeting face to face.’ Sustainability was taken very seriously in the construction of the pavilion too. With very few exceptions, all materials and labor were sourced locally.


Japan Pavilion

Japan’s pavilion celebrates the Asian nation’s traditional origami techniques and shapes. The building has been designed by Yuko Nagayama/NTT Facilities and aims to blend traditional Arabesque and Asanoha (hemp leaf) patterns, while also featuring a restaurant for visitors.


UAE Pavilion

Designed by Santiago Calatrava, the UAE Pavilion emulates a falcon in flight, symbolic to the country, and is rooted in UAE’s local rich history and cultural heritage,’ says the architect. ‘We are honoured to unveil the UAE Pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020. The design The falcon is the national bird of the UAE, and the design pays homage to the region’s heritage and traditions. The pavilion’s wing-like roof elements seem to defy gravity.


Australian Pavilion

One more eye-catching structure, this time courtesy of the Australian participation. The pavilion was created by Brisbane-based architecture firm Bureau^proberts. The intricate design is composed of a ‘cloud’ of vertical aluminum panels that hover above a plinth made of timber. The piece ‘encapsulates Australian optimism and creativity and celebrates Australian diversity and collaboration’.


UK Pavilion

The UK Pavilion, titled Poem Pavilion, was created by leading artist and designer Es Devlin. Working closely with structural engineers Atelier One, environmental design consultants Atelier Ten, executive architects Veretec and creative agency Avantgarde, Devlin became the first woman to design the UK Pavilion since the Expo’s inception. The design offers a take on machine-generated poetry, in architectural form. ‘Algorithms are among us, they are an ever-growing part of our culture, their output is based on what they are trained on and who trains them,’ says Devlin. ‘The pavilion is at once an expression of the ideal of a culturally diverse Britain that I grew up with, tempered with our growing awareness of the part algorithms play in shaping the future of our culture.’


Over to you: Whats’ your favorite? Explore these and many others on EXPO Dubai’s official website and let us know all your comments via [email protected].
IDF Editors
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Connecting the world through Architecture, Design, and Art. IDF is a lifestyle publication for intelligent readers with impeccable taste; a beautiful collection of trends, objects, places, art, nature, and culture #curated for #inspired living.

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