UAE pavilion to take prominent position at next year’s Milan Expo

The soaring, sandy walls of the UAE pavilion will snake their way through the main avenue of Milan’s world fair expo next year, officials announced during an online launch today.

An artist's impression of the UAE Pavilion at Milan's World Expo 2015. Courtesy
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DUBAI // It is a remarkable story: how the UAE turned harsh and inhospitable desert into a source of food, water and energy for a growing population.

Now modern technology has been harnessed to tell that story to nearly 30 million visitors expected at the world fair next year in Milan.

The UAE pavilion, with a dramatic canyon-like entrance, winding pathways, a cylindrical state-of-the-art theatre and a rooftop garden, will be spread over a prominent location on the Italian city’s Expo 2015 site.

Fitted with green energy technologies, the interactive pavilion will use digital tablets to provide information along the pathways. Visitors will learn about systems such as irrigation aqueducts that have supported agriculture in the region.

The 12-metre high sand-textured walls will flow in a series of parallel waves through the 140-metre site using material to represent shades of sand from across the Emirates.

The paths aim to recreate courtyards of ancient desert cities at the end of which visitors will finally reach an oasis.

The story-telling experience will be combined with traditional Emirati hospitality, food offerings and culinary displays of modern Emirati dishes.

Building will begin in the spring on the site recently handed over to the UAE team. Construction is likely to be completed by the end of the year and tests will be run on the structure in the first half of next year.

After the Milan Expo ends, the pavilion will be dismantled and shipped back to its permanent home in Masdar City, the sustainable community in Abu Dhabi.

Dubai’s successful bid to host the World Expo 2020 has fuelled interest in the Milan Expo with questions from the public about the pavilion design, volunteering in Milan and the availability of Emirati food.

Salem Al Ameri, the UAE Expo 2015 commissioner general, said the pavilion addressed the Milan Expo theme of Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life by looking into the UAE’s history and drawing from the nation’s experiences “of trying to feed ourselves”.

He said the UAE hoped to share its knowledge on how it handled a rising population from 225,000 in 1971 when the federation was formed to more than nine million.

“The UAE is committed to sharing our knowledge and resources to help others tackle similar problems,” Mr Al Ameri said.

The pavilion’s architects, Norman Foster + Partners in London, the UAE Expo team, officials from Masdar City and Expo organisers in Milan were part of Tuesday’s launch.

Norman Foster, chairman of the architecture firm, said the challenge was 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,” he said.

Gerard Evenden, the project’s leading architect, said modern design was incorporated into the natural landscape.

“Our aim was not simply to create an iconic building but to build a space that is an integral part of our story and theme itself,” he said.

The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology helped in the design process. “The sustainability principles of the pavilion fall within our objectives and we are pleased to have had the opportunity to share our knowledge and experience from the development of Masdar City,” said Nawal Al Hosany, director of sustainability at Masdar.

Giuseppe Sala, the commissioner for the Milan Expo, said collaboration was a vital factor in an Italy-UAE partnership.

“At today’s meeting we symbolically pass the baton to the United Arab Emirates which will host in Dubai the 2020 edition of the Universal Exhibition: a collaboration that will certainly generate a valuable experience.”