The national pavilion for the United Arab Emirates occupies a large site close to the centre of the Milan Expo and is accessed via its main circulation axis, the decumanus. From here, visitors are drawn into the mouth of a canyon-like space, defined by two undulating 12-metre-high walls. Influenced by ancient planning principles, the pavilion’s interior evokes the narrow pedestrian streets and courtyards of the traditional desert city, and its contemporary reinterpretation in the sustainable Masdar masterplan. The high walls continue through the 140 metre site in a series of parallel waves, unifying the visitor spaces within a dynamic formal language designed to convey the ridges and texture of sand dunes
A ramp leads gently upwards from the entrance towards the auditorium. Along this route, the irrigation aqueducts that have historically supported agriculture in the region are introduced in digital form. The path leads to a state-of-the-art auditorium, contained within a drum at the heart of the site. After the screening, visitors follow a route through further interactive displays and digital talks, including a special exhibit celebrating Dubai as host city for the 2020 Expo. The exhibition trail culminates in a green oasis.
Conveying a unique sense of place, the landscaping around the pavilion is designed to evoke the UAE’s terrain and flora, while the texture of the walls derives from a scan of dunes.
The design uses the principles of LEED with a combination of passive and active techniques. Most significantly, the building is designed to be recycled. The GRC wall panels are supported by a steel frame, which can be easily demounted and reconstructed for the pavilion’s eventual relocation in the UAE.