The UAE pavilion at the Milan Expo 2015 site will take visitors on an interactive trip through the history of the Emirates.
A work in progress, the UAE pavilion at the Milan Expo 2015 will be a window on the Emirati world for visitors to the event in May. Courtesy Ronald Schuurmans
A work in progress, the UAE pavilion at the Milan Expo 2015 will be a window on the Emirati world for visitors to the event in May. Courtesy Ronald Schuurmans

Giant walls that represent sand dunes, a golden drum embracing a state-of-the-art theatre and interactive shows are taking shape at the UAE pavilion prior to the May inauguration of the Milan Expo.

Workers in small cranes and mechanised boom lifts are completing the installation of the UAE pavilion to recreate narrow, shaded streets and towering dunes.

In the heart of the Milan Expo, halfway along the main spine, or Decumanus, the structure’s 12-metre-high walls are being set up across the site.

Salem Al Ameri, the UAE Expo 2015 commissioner general, said the pavilion tells the country’s story and how its people overcame scarcity of resources.

“We think of the physical structure, designed by the team led by Norman Foster, as the wrapping of an elegant gift box, enticing further exploration with its imaginative shapes and colours and, most importantly, delivering the surprises that make up the ‘wow factor’ that our visitors will remember long after their visit,” he said.

“One of the things that was important for us was that we would create a building whose form was defined by the story we wanted to tell, so as we discussed the architecture we also had the visitor experience team shaping the message and our filming team sharing their creative ideas. Now we see it as one integrated whole: building, exhibition and story.”

Once visitors arrive at the funnel-shaped entrance, they will be guided through the winding vertical dunes. Here they will view films and holographic installations that help them understand the UAE’s involvement in the Milan Expo theme – Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.

Emirati ambassadors, who are currently being recruited, will carry tablet computers containing interactive stories about the UAE.

At the top of the ramp, visitors will enter the Palm Theatre to watch a 10-minute specially produced film, The Family Tree.

The pavilion will also showcase the UAE’s solutions to the problems of scarce resources based on a local need that could have a global impact, since other parts of the world are grappling with similar challenges due to spiralling demand and the effects of climate change, said Mr Al Ameri, who is also deputy director of the National Media Council.

During the planning process, when the NMC’s Expo team discussed what would define the UAE pavilion with architect Norman Foster + Partners, officials said it was difficult to imagine what the final structure would look like.

They worried about whether the walls were high enough to create the right impact, if designers could mirror ripples of the dunes and if the winding ramp up to the theatre was narrow enough to evoke the shaded streets of an Emirati village or the soaring Liwa sand dunes.

The hospitality of Emiratis, the traditional culture, the aroma of local food: these all needed to be blended in to form thought-provoking pavilion experiences.

The aim was not merely to entertain, educate and engage but also to inspire real commitment to change, officials said.

Peter Vine, director of the UAE Pavilion Project in Milan, is confident it will exceed expectations.

“I think it is the most impressive pavilion that the UAE has created at any of the seven expos that I have been involved in,” he said.

“It will tell an incredible story and create a lasting impression on our visitors.”

Some 145 countries will participate in the Milan Expo, with more than eight million tickets sold and about 53 countries, including the UAE, building pavilions.

As the structures take shape, there is growing interest among other countries and visiting delegates.

“The UAE pavilion is really something wonderful, it is creating curiosity among Italians,” said Fabrizio Sala, a regional Italian minister for the Milan Expo and international business.

“There are many people who believe this pavilion will be in the top 10 most-visited pavilions in the expo.”

Published: March 6, 2015 04:00 AM


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