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Expo 2020 Dubai: World’s best architects turn pavilions into stunning marvels – News

Expo 2020 Dubai: World’s best architects turn pavilions into stunning marvels – News

Expo 2020 Dubai has drawn some outstanding architectural talents from across the world Expos are synonymous with the most innovative and creative architectural designs. It is the expos that gave Paris, the Eifel Tower, and Seatle, the Space Needle. Expo 2020 Dubai has drawn some outstanding architectural talents from across the world. With

Expo 2020 Dubai has drawn some outstanding architectural talents from across the world

Expos are synonymous with the most innovative and creative architectural designs. It is the expos that gave Paris, the Eifel Tower, and Seatle, the Space Needle.

Expo 2020 Dubai has drawn some outstanding architectural talents from across the world. With each nation vying to attract visitors with the most eye-catchy, technologically savvy and visually splendid structure, they have hired their best architectural talents to build their pavilion.

Khaleej Times caught up with a few of them to understand how they conceptualised the winning design to represent their country and its ethos, and the challenges they faced in implementing it.


Jose Paulo Gouvêa, an award-winning architect from Brazil, drew inspiration from the Brazilian forests and water to design a pavilion that will showcase the stunning biodiversity of his country.

“Brazilian rivers are one of the most important water resources of the world. Our main challenge was how to build a pavilion using natural elements… How to transform steel, glass, concrete, fibre, tensile into something natural was the most difficult part,” Gouvêa told Khaleej Times.

Located at the Sustainability district, the 4000 sqm Brazilian pavilion will have water as the main element. A thin water blade, representing the Brazilian rivers and where visitors can walk, will occupy most of the space, providing an experience that will be complemented by projections, sounds and aromas.

Gouvêa said he understands building an Expo pavilion is ‘special.’

“I know the importance of it. In fact, I have done my PhD research on Brazil’s 1970 Osaka Expo pavilion built by my master, Paulo Mendes da Rocha, who passed away a few weeks ago.” The pavilion, regarded as a masterpiece by Rocha explores the relationship between nature and architecture.

He said it was decided from the beginning that they will bring ‘even a screw’ from Brazil to build the pavilion.

“The idea is that we are not just creating a structure using materials. We are using ideas to bring the Brazilian nature to Dubai.”

To give visitors an immersive experience and give them a true Brazilian experience, he decided to fill the pavilion with a shallow water blade, where people can wet their feet and relax.

Using 140 giant projectors, images from Brazil will be projected on the translucent membranes that makes the interior of the pavilion.

He said photographers were hired to take scores of pictures of Brazilian forests, rivers, cities, food and cultural aspects which have been put together by a producer and art director using a technology called video imaging to create stunning stories.

“It was not easy especially considering the constant travel and online interactions with engineers and other members of the team. But finally, we did it. The pavilion is nearing completion,” said Gouvêa.

South Korea

Korean architect Moon Hoon was given a brief to come up with a design that represents mobility and the technological advancement of Korea when he entered the competition in 2018 for Korea’s Expo pavilion.

“As an architect I had a vision when I thought about the theme mobility and ‘Smart Korea; Moving the world to you.’

I was imagining a flower in the desert. I could see dry and arid land… There was sun rise and dews on the flowers and light was shining on the petals. That vision transported me to a stadium in South Korea where people are dancing and singing. That was it! I knew I am going to represent this spontaneous, energy and harmony of the people in a stadium,” Hoon told Khaleej Times.

That is how Hoon designed a dynamic façade for the pavilion that constantly moves and interlaces real and virtual environments.

Hoon said he used 1,590 rotating cubes that are digital and analogue, to create continuously moving images on the exterior of the pavilion.

“The cubes react and move according to a software programme. So, it can be a face, an image a text. Visitors do not need to enter the pavilion to experience it. The exterior is like an art installation itself.”

He used a technology called Digilogue – a synthesis between digital and analogue to create immersive experiences for visitors.

“The five storey-pavilion also has four ramps that weave in and out of the building. That lets visitors float through the pavilion,” said Hoon.

Visitors are provided with a mobile phone when they enter the pavilion, and they can tap on any particular feature and it will pop up like augmented reality.

Another peculiar feature of the pavilion located at the Mobility district is a tilted moving screen called ‘Cityscope’ located in the building’s atrium that will transport visitors to a virtual world showcasing Korea’s technologically advanced cities.

The Expo pavilion, Hoon said, is typical of his architectural style that is playful and distinct.

Some of his popular works include ‘Rockit Suda’ resort that has structures with tails and horns. Another distinctive project of Hoon is ‘Two Moon,’ a cultural building in Seoul that looks like two moons.

“I am an action architect. I do not like my designs to be steady, stable. They are colourful and moving. They talk and interact. The Korean pavilion will not give you a dull moment. There is lot of action awaiting you.”

The Czech Republic

The Czech Republic pavilion at Expo is the brainchild of young architect Jan Tuma at Formosa AA s.r.o. Ltd. Among the five final entries, Tuma’s design of an organic structure growing around the quadratic lines of the exhibition space was chosen.

Speaking to Khaleej Times over phone, Tuma says ‘Expo is the Olympics in architecture that every architect wants to win.

“It is important because the whole world is going to see your design.”

Tuma believes in the connection between technology and environment.

He said he has previously built certain elements on the Czech pavilion for the 2015 Milano Expo using the same concept.

“It comes natural to me. For millennials, nature has evolved as a solution to many of the pressing problems. So, when we say sustainability, we don’t think it means going back to the forest. What we mean is living in harmony with nature and using technology to enhance the blessings given by nature,” Tuma said.

“We built a system that can convert air into water and transform dry desert into fertile soil. Its essence is transformation… transforming nothingness into something.”

The technological core of the pavilion is the S.A.W.E.R system. We have designed an organic shaping canopy as the central piece. We call it ‘cloud’.

The pipes in the exterior will intersect with other technological components inside, and will also serve as a visual purpose.”


The German pavilion, built like a campus to show the world together to find solutions to make it more sustainable, was jointly built by Andreas Horbelt of Facts and Fiction exhibition and Chris Tschersich of LAVA Architecture.

“Our design strongly emphasises the question of how we can bring people together, how we can get them to “connect” their minds. That led us to the “campus” metaphor, as a campus is a place where people come together to learn and find solutions, where everybody is of equal value and invited to take part,” said Horbelt.

“This metaphor led us through the whole design process. The building is reminiscent of a vertical campus, a grouping of different structures that form a large whole. The many different visual relationships shape the spatial experience, the architecture is very democratic from our point of view, visitors experience it as subjects in constant exchange with others,” he added.

At the pavilion, visitors are “enrolled” at the beginning, then go through a “curriculum” of three “labs” before celebrating the possibility of a more sustainable future together in the “Graduation Hall”. Each of the labs explores a different thematic focus of sustainability and makes it tangible through the scenography and exhibits.

Tschersich said they have extensive experience in the local climate through earlier projects in the region.

“In many ways the architectural design of CAMPUS GERMANY is in the lineage and a continuation of earlier projects, take learnings from these but takes them much further in a more radical way. The special thing about an Expo surely is the strong focus on user experience and outstanding design. This is a great opportunity for us as architects and a great challenge at the same time,” he added.


Anjana Sankar

Anjana Sankar is a UAE-based journalist chasing global stories of conflict, migration and human rights. She has reported from the frontlines of the wars in Yemen and Syria and has extensively written on the refugee crisis in Bangladesh, Iraq and Europe. From interviewing Daesh militants to embedding with the UAE army in Yemen, and covering earthquakes, floods, terrorist attacks and elections, she has come out scathe-free from the most dangerous conflict zones of the world. Riding on over 14 years of experience, Anjana currently is an Assistant Editor with Khaleej Times and leads the reporting team. She often speaks about women empowerment on her Facebook page that has 40,000 plus followers.


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