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RIBA Gulf Chapter: Guided walking tour at Dubai Expo

Hear from the RIBA Gulf Chapter committee about the guided walking tour of Dubai Expo's thematic districts and iconic pavilions hosted by leading designers and constructors.

20 July 2022

Earlier this year, the RIBA Gulf Chapter held an in-person tour of Dubai Expo’s thematic districts and a number of its iconic pavilions. The group was hosted by leading designers and constructors who discussed the key design inspirations, challenges, and achievements. These LEED Platinum and Gold schemes will evolve into “Dubai District 2020”. This contemporary, smart and sustainable city will form a lasting legacy to the success of this outstanding global event.

The guided tour kicked off with Hopkins Architects' - ‘Thematic Districts’, presented by Project Director Stefan Hache. The districts comprise 87 permanent buildings spread over three separate ‘petals’, housing 136 pavilions of the expo’s 192 participating countries. These reflect the three main expo themes of 'Mobility, Opportunity, and Sustainability'.

The shading afforded by the canopied lightweight metal structures was inspired by the shape of the date palm and offered much welcomed respite from the harsh sun above. Sarah Coogan, Regional Director of Inhabit Middle East disucussed the façades of the pavilion in further detail.

Tour group standing below the district canopy structures, Images by Andy Shaw and Sandra Woodall

The next stop was at the UK Pavilion in the Opportunity District, designed by Es Devlin Studio to highlight artificial intelligence and the space sector. The experience was inspired by a project from UK scientist Stephen Hawking and offers a continuously changing façade generated by a collective message of its visitors’ contributions.

Simone Materazzo, Associate at Arup Structures discussed the Japanese Pavilion by Yuko Nagayama/NTT Facilities, highlighting its geometrical 3D lattice environmental filter to protect the glazed envelope. The design represented the traditional paper arts of origami and origata gift wrapping. Standing away from the building we were able to gather under the expo’s shaded walkway to admire the pavilion’s reflection in the pool located in its foreground, which offers evaporative cooling to the building’s façade.

Tour group in front of the UK pavilion, Images by Andy Shaw and Sandra Woodall

Next was a much-welcomed visit to the Swiss Pavilion designed by OOS and introduced to the tour group by Iwan Funk, Managing Partner at Bellprat Partner AG. Upon arrival, we were brandished with red parasols to shade us whilst we gathered outside to hear the design innovation and challenges.

As we approached the entrance, we created an ever-moving dynamically changing scene in the ‘Reflections’ presented on the building’s interactive mirrored façade. We were ushered inside and gratefully immersed in a cooling sea of fog as we flowed through the exhibitions in near total darkness.

Onwards to the Netherlands Pavilion designed by V8 Architects. Dietmar Kautschitz of Expomobilia led the discussion about this miniature world where a circular climate system harvests water and energy, manufactures rain, and produces food, creating a temporary biotope that embodies the fusion between art, architecture, and technology.

Tour group outside of the Japan pavilion, Images by Andy Shaw and Sandra Woodall

Due to the brief for a sustainable pavilion with a limited lifespan and minimal footprint, this was designed and built according to circular principles. A conscious decision was made to incorporate as many reusable, recyclable and compostable materials as possible. A radical construction method was applied by renting materials available in Dubai such as the 18m sheet piles and tubes, and many finishing elements which have since been returned for reuse within the local construction industry.

A final presentation of the Poland and Finland pavilions was also given by Maria Zaaruolo, Project Manager of Trivandi.

Enormous thanks to everyone who offered their time and expertise to detail the tremendous work that went into the design and construction of Expo 2020, Dubai, and to all who joined us for this exceptional tour.

Sandra Woodall, tangramGulf, RIBA Gulf Chapter committee

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