Expo 2020 Dubai: Morocco dazzles with spectacular pavilion

Architecture inspired by the theme of ‘Legacies for the future, from inspiring origins to sustainable progress’

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Morocco sees Expo 2020 Dubai as a “particularly significant event” to showcase its diverse talents on the international stage, the woman overseeing the kingdom’s pavilion has said.

The North African country has a long-standing tradition of participating in World Expos, dating back to 1867 in Paris.

Expo 2020 Dubai will be its 21st and one of the most important, said Nadia Fettah Alaoui, madame general commissioner of the Moroccan Pavilion.

Moroccans have made colossal progress in so many areas, such as infrastructure and industry. It is time to show the world

“Morocco’s participation will highlight the image of a modern country, a country in motion, committed and working on behalf of future generations, and will also strengthen the economic, commercial, and touristic appeal of our country,” she said.

“Expo 2020 Dubai will also be one of the very first worldwide events in the wake of the pandemic we have lived through for a year and a half.

“It is important for Morocco to be present, among 190 other countries, to show our unique approach to a sustainable future with serenity and commitment and to share our contribution, along with all nations of the world, to bring an end to this crisis.”

Traditional pavilion design

Morocco pavilion under construction at the Expo 2020 Dubai site in the Opportunity District. Courtesy Morocco Expo

Designed by Moroccan architect Tarik Oualalou, the pavilion is made entirely of earth, using a traditional Moroccan construction technique to create 22 stacked rectangular sections.

The building’s 4,000 square-metre facade, which is 33 metres in height, was inspired by the Moroccan villages of the south.

Rammed earth, a technique that dates as far back as the Neolithic Period, helps regulate indoor conditions in hot and arid places and its use offers “an example of how such building methods can serve to inspire more sustainable models of urban development”, Oualalou said.

“In conjunction with other passive strategies used in the design of the building, such as wooden interior facades which double as sunscreens, the rammed-earth facade allows the pavilion to answer fully to the demanding ecological standards of Leed,” he said, referring to the sustainable building benchmark.

Inside, the pavilion has an inner courtyard, which is considered an important spatial element in traditional Moroccan architecture.

The building’s 4,000 square metres rammed earth facade.

The 14 exhibition spaces inside the pavilion are connected by a continuous “inner street”, which begins at the building’s uppermost floor and gradually descends to the ground.

The pavilion, located in the Opportunity District, also includes a traditional Moroccan restaurant, a modern street-food area, an event space and 10 hanging gardens that will frame visitors’ views of the surrounding Expo as they descend to the building’s ground level.

The sequential exhibition spaces combine to tell the story of Morocco’s regions and cultures.

In line with this commitment to sustainability, Moroccan officials have said the pavilion will be converted into a housing complex after the Expo. It will be adapted to house apartments, an 80-metre-square swimming pool, a fitness club and a communal lounge.

From inspiring origins to sustainable progress

The 14 exhibition spaces inside the pavilion are connected by a continuous “inner street”.

The Moroccan pavilion will have the theme ‘Legacies for the future – from inspiring origins to sustainable progress’.

“The goal is to tell the story of a Morocco that is proud of all of its origins, heritage legacy and values, the great men and remarkable women of our country, its natural resources and geographical location and all that have forged our identity,” Ms Alaoui said.

“We also wish to convey our connection to the notion of sustainability, which allows us to transform the many opportunities found in our country into tangible results.

“In Dubai, we will champion the story of this beautiful Morocco in motion, reinventing and transforming itself to adapt in a sustainable way, answering the great challenges facing humanity, both now and in the future.”

The pavilion has an inner courtyard - an important spatial element in traditional Moroccan architecture.

Ms Alaoui said the pavilion’s interior captures important aspects of Morocco, taking visitors on a journey as they move through its exhibition spaces.

“First there is the village and then there is the scenographic journey inside the village, which does not follow a classical museum scenography, but rather a series of powerfully immersive experiences,” she said.

“Each doorway leads to a unique, interactive and playful experience that engages both body and mind, allowing visitors to discover and, I hope, fall in love with a plural Morocco.

“The Moroccan Pavilion will affirm the Morocco brand by its exceptional location and architecture, proof of which is our intention to patent this process that transforms an ancient earth construction into innovation.”

Expo 2020 will also be an opportunity for Moroccan businesses to connect with other countries that might not be traditional trade partners.

“Moroccans have made colossal progress in so many areas, such as infrastructure and industry, even during this crisis. It is time to show the world,” Ms Alaoui said.

“It is also critical for B2B [business to business] that this is the first time a universal exposition will take place in this part of the world, which will open up countries and regions that aren’t familiar with us.

“Our anchored position in Africa is both a heritage and an ambition for the future. This is a highly important moment for all partners to showcase what they do and what they aspire to do.”

She said the Global Business Forum Africa in mid-October would be important for Morocco.

During the six months of Expo, she said, Morocco will take part in the 11 themed weeks organised by Expo, as well as the UAE’s Golden Jubilee in December.

Morocco will also celebrate its national day on December 26 with a major event.

“We will be very present at the Women’s Pavilion, an innovation at the universal exposition, where many talented Moroccan women from all fields – associative, scientific and cultural – will participate and inspire us,” she said.