Foster + Partners have unveiled the design for the United Arab Emirates pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo. Designed to evoke the experience of walking through UAE’s ancient communities, the elongated site will be transformed into a contemporary reinterpretation of a desert city. Passive principles, such as rainwater harvesting and the integration of photovoltaic cells, are targeted to achieve LEED Platinum certification. These strategies are all designed to support the pavilion’s many dining areas, which embrace the Expo’s overarching theme “Feeding the Planet” by serving a taste of modern Emirarti cuisine.
“We are very proud to be chosen again to create the national pavilion for the UAE,” stated Norman Foster. “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 UAE Pavilion, which will be built near the Expo’s center on a narrow 140-meter site, will be accessed through a “dramatic canyon-like entrance,” as Foster described, which is defined by two undulating 12-meter high walls. This entrance will lead visitors from the Expo’s main circulation artery into an intimate sequence of intuitive, self-shading circulation paths that are reminiscent of the narrow pedestrian streets found in ancient desert cities.
These long channels, which lead visitors to the site’s state-of-the-art auditorium, exhibition and restaurant spaces, are lined with a digital form of an irrigation aqueduct. By using augmented reality devices, the story of the Emirates are brought to life. To future “convey a distinctive sense of place,” described Foster, “the texture of the walls derives from a scan taken in the desert and construction will utilize materials to represent the different shades of sand across the Emirates. The GRC panels are supported by a steel frame, which can be easily demounted and reconstructed for the pavilion’s eventual relocation in the UAE.”
At the end of the exhibition trail visitors reach a green oasis leading into a ground level café, with a formal restaurant on the first floor and a hospitality roof terrace on top. The landscaping around the pavilion and in the open public areas is designed to evoke the terrain and flora of the UAE.
Design TeamNorman Foster, David Nelson, Spencer de Grey, Gerard Evenden, Martin Castle, John Blythe, Andre Ford, Giovanna Sylos Labini, Ronald Schuurmans, Daniel Skidmore, Andrea Soligon, Davide Conti, Giuseppe Lucibello
Collaborating ArchitectMarco Visconti
ClientNational Media Council
Structural EngineerFoster + Partners
Mechanical + Electrical EngineerFoster + Partners, Manens-Tifs
Local Collaborating Fire EngineerGAE Engineering S.r.l.
Quantity SurveyorFraser Randall
Lighting ConsultantDavid Atkinson
Acoustic ConsultantSandy Brown Associates
Project ManagerFraser Randall
PhotographsFoster + Partners