UAE pavilion for Milan Expo unveiled

Foster pic

Architects Foster + Partners has revealed designs for United Arab Emirates pavilion at the upcoming Milan Expo.

The designers say they want to bring the planning principles of a traditional desert city to Italy for the 2015 event.

The pavilion’s interior of self-shaded streets evokes the experience of the UAE’s ancient communities, while demonstrating the natural energy efficiency of their compact urban form.


The pavilion occupies a large site close to the centre of the Expo and is accessed via its main circulation axis, called the decumanus.

The opening is a canyon-like space, defined by two undulating 12-metre-high walls while the paths through the pavilion evoke the narrow pedestrian streets and courtyards of an ancient desert city – and its contemporary reinterpretation in the sustainable Masdar City masterplan in Abu Dhabi.

The walls continue throughout the 140 metre site in a series of parallel waves, with construction materials chosen to represent the different shades of sand across the region.

They are supported by a steel frame, which can be easily demounted and reconstructed for the pavilion’s eventual relocation in the UAE.

A ramp then leads upwards from the entrance towards the auditorium. Along this route, the irrigation aqueducts that have traditionally supported agriculture in the region are introduced in digital form.

A state-of-the-art auditorium is contained within a drum at the heart of the site which will screen presentations. Following viewing visitors follow a path through further interactive displays and digital talks, including a special exhibit celebrating Dubai as host city for the 2020 Expo.

The pavilion responds to the Milan Expo’s theme of ‘feeding the planet’ by integrating a variety of dining options around the theme of modern Emirati food, while landscaping around the pavilion and in the open public areas is designed to evoke the terrain and flora of the UAE.

The design targets LEED ‘Platinum’ through a combination of design techniques and principles from rainwater capture on the roof garden to the integration of photovoltaic cells.

Lord Norman Foster said:“We are very proud to be chosen again to create the national pavilion for the UAE. Our challenge has been to design for two climates – to create a naturally cool, comfortable space for visitors in Milan, while considering the pavilion’s ultimate reconstruction in the Emirates, where there is a need to provide shade from the intense sun.

“The design reflects our investigations into the form of ancient cities and our appreciation for the desert landscape. It also maximises the opportunities presented by the elongated site – the dramatic canyon-like entrance will welcome people inside, and the channels between the high walls provide intuitive circulation, naturally leading visitors to the auditorium, exhibition and restaurant spaces.”

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