Foster, BIG and Grimshaw unveil designs for Expo 2020

Nick Myall
Wednesday 16 Mar 2016

The winners of the competition to design pavilions for Expo 2020 Dubai have been announced

Foster + Partners, BIG and Grimshaw Architects have won a global competition to design a trio of pavilions for the 2020 Expo in Dubai.

The pavilions will form the centrepiece for the 438-hectare Expo site in the port town of Jebel Ali –located between Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Danish firm BIG has been awarded the Opportunity Pavilion, London firm Foster + Partners the Mobility Pavilion and fellow London studio Grimshaw Architects the Sustainability Pavilion.

Thirteen of the world’s leading architectural firms took part in the global competition, launched in July 2015 by Emaar Properties on behalf of Expo 2020. The competition sought to identify the designs for the three theme pavilions of: Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability, under the Expo’s 2020 theme of Connecting Minds, Creating the Future. Pavilions and their iconic architecture are central to World Expos, and the three pavilions will be centrepieces that showcase the latest ideas, innovations and developments whilst providing the visitors with an immersive and memorable experience. 

His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, congratulated the winners. “The competition attracted a truly stellar line up of architectural firms that each put forward designs that impressed all those involved in the selection process. After careful study and consideration, three designs stood out, amidst tough competition, as great future structures that will mark our Expo as exceptional.” 

A key criterion for the competition was ensuring that the designs not only embodied one of Expo’s core themes, but also had the flexibility and longevity to live on as landmarks and functional structures after the Expo is complete in 2021. 

BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) submitted the winning design for the Opportunity Pavilion, a group of architects, designers, builders and thinkers based in Copenhagen and New York. Their design philosophy reflects a belief that contemporary urban life is a result of the confluence of cultural exchange, global economic trends and communication technologies. BIG are known for its innovative approach to architecture and are currently working on the design of a new headquarters for Google.  

Foster + Partners design for the Mobility Pavilion drew on nearly four decades of pioneering designs including Dubai’s The Index building, and the masterplan for Masdar City.

The winning design for the Sustainability Pavilion, which will become a long term ‘cluster’ centre promoting innovative technologies, was submitted by Grimshaw Architects. The firm designed the Eden project in Cornwall, UK, and is a leader in the field of sustainable architecture.

The three pavilions will form centrepieces of the two sq km Expo site, surrounding the central Al Wasl meeting plaza, the figurative and literal heart of Expo 2020. “Expo 2020 will be a festival of human ingenuity. We hope that the nations and organisations that take part in Expo, and the millions who visit, will explore the power of connections across the spheres of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability”, said HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum. “Our theme pavilions will play a central role in bringing this to life.”

His Excellency Mohamed Alabbar, Expo Higher Committee member and Chairman of Emaar Properties, said, “The winning theme pavilion designs further build on the UAE and Dubai’s proven record in iconic architectural design, particularly when considering their long-term functionality, sustainability and contribution to Expo 2020’s legacy and Dubai’s long-term development.”

Nick Myall

News Editor

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