An oasis in the desert

Kerry Boettcher
Friday 24 Apr 2015

Foster + Partners create a desert dream land for the UAE Pavilion at the Milan Expo 2015

In the lead up to the Milan Expo 2015, World Architecture News will be showcasing a new Pavilion each week. 

The theme of this year’s expo is Feeding the Planet: Energy for Life. The structure must be easily dismantled and recycled, have disabled access and have open spaces filled with vegetation. Architects from all over the world are taking part in the Milan Expo 2015 and building their own creative and unique pavilions that reflect the identity of their nations. 

The 2015 United Arab Emirates Milan Expo pavilion contest was posted by WAN’s Business Information service in January 2014. The full competition brief can be found here. For a free trial contact Katerina Hojgrova.

At 4,386 sq m, the United Arab Emirates pavilion is one of the biggest at this year’s Expo. Designed by British architects Foster + Partners, it has been designed as a powerful visual statement reflecting the future of the UAE. As you would expect from a desert country, sand is a prominent element, coating the 12-metre-high walls, which undulate in parallel, conveying the ridges and texture of sand dunes. 

The theme of the pavilion is Food for Thought: Shaping and sharing the future. It looks at some of the innovative food production solutions developed in the UAE. 

The pavilion is organised around three elements. The canyon-like main entrance is constructed around a 75-metre-long video screen, projecting an image of the long irrigation aqueducts that have historically supported agriculture in the region. Influenced by ancient planning-principles, the pavilion’s interior evokes the narrow pedestrian streets and courtyards of the traditional desert city. The main exhibition is split into two parts, with the first contained in a cylinder, the real central element of the complex that allows the auditorium to rotate. Visitors then pass into the second part of the main exhibition before leaving down a ramp that leads to an oasis.

The design uses the principles of LEED with a combination of passive and active techniques. The building is designed to be recycled, and the GRC wall panels are supported by a steel frame, which can be dismantled and reconstructed after the Expo. Rainwater will also be harvested from the roof and hard surfaces, to quench the vegetables grown for the pavilion restaurant. 

The WAN Temporary Spaces Award 2015 is still open for entries. 

To read about this year’s Expo pavilions previously featured on WAN, see the list below:









Kerry Boettcher

News editor

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