CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati and Italo Rota Building Office, along with Matteo Gatto and F&M Ingegneria designed the Italian Pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai with a focus on reconfigurable architecture and circularity. The architects used orange peel, coffee ground, algae, and sand as construction materials, along with recycled plastic for the façade's ropes and boat hulls for the roof. The architectural design of the pavilion and the materials used create a natural climate mitigation system that substitutes for air conditioning.
Taking into account the Expo's theme of "connecting minds, creating the future", the severe climatic challenges of Dubai, and the timeline of the event, the architects wanted to build something that would cater to these challenges while highlighting the pavilion's own theme of "Beauty Connects People". With those challenges in mind, the Italian Pavilion was created "as an architecture that is able to transform itself through time, in a sustainable fashion".
The Italian Pavilion has large dimensions and a very sophisticated structure, but more than an architecture in the canonical sense it is a large experimental installation focused on the increasingly blurred boundaries between the natural and the artificial. Its construction is equally inspired by natural biotypes and the most advanced technologies that come from space research. On the one hand, the building looks at the organization of tropical forests, where light filters through a high canopy and life is organized accordingly. On the other hand, a crucial theme is the production of neo-materia: new construction materials that have an organic and biological origin, whose technological production is not to be mistaken with recycling. Since the pavilion was conceived in a circular way, one can think of this neo-materia as materials that one can potentially be reused anywhere, in different forms and with different purposes. The Italian Pavilion represents almost a sort of ‘architectural banking’: a catalog from which to choose the elements of future architecture. -- Italo Rota
The green, white, and red hulls that make up the roof of the pavilion, which refer to the historical connections between the Italian and Arabian Peninsulas, can be dissembled and moved to new destinations. The hulls are supported by 150 vertical steel pillars, each rising 27 meters, which in turn, support a wave-shaped roof membrane made of ETFE pillows and a layer of perforated thin metal sheets that filter the sunlight.
The ropes on the facade are made of almost two million recycled plastic bottles that form an intricate mesh-like surface that stretches almost 70 kilometers. After the expo, they will be reused again in accordance with the logic of the circular economy. The ropes create a localized passive cooling system which allows for extensive shading, natural ventilation, and better thermal comfort.
Our design for the Italian Pavilion deals with what I believe is architecture’s most important challenge today: advancing the double convergence between the natural and the artificial. It anticipates issues and suggests strategies that will be increasingly crucial for the future of our cities as we address the consequences of the current climate crisis. The pavilion keeps mutating into different forms. It speaks about reconfigurability both in the long term, because of its circularity, and in the short term, thanks to its use of digital technologies. -- Carlo Ratti
Upon entering the pavilion, visitors are first met with the “Solar Coffee Garden”, a café designed by CRA and Italo Rota for leading coffee company Lavazza. Inside the exhibition halls, visitors explore the Belvedere, a round structure topped by a dome, covered by wild herbs of the Mediterranean Maquis, which symbolize the Renaissance gardens. Renewable energy company TOLO Green enabled the ecological treatment of air by cultivating spirulina microalgae and bio fixating the carbon dioxide emitted by visitors. The exhibition also includes an Innovation Space dedicated to technological research, the Second Sun and Second Moon digital installations by Enel X, and the Theatre of Memory with a 3D-printed copy of Michelangelo’s David developed by the Museum of the Galleria dell ’Accademia of Florence and the Ministry of Culture.
Other materials used that are inline with circular economy include powder made of coffee and orange peels, which were used to coat the suspended pathways and walkways. The structure of the pavilion rests on a locally-sourced sand dune five meters above ground level. The path inside the pavilion is accompanied by a series of green elements from more than 160 different species that live inside the building.
We invite you to check out ArchDaily's comprehensive coverage of Expo 2020 Dubai.