My Dubai Expo: meet the project manager behind Expo's solar trees and 17 pavilions

Elisa Ruggeri from Mati Ltd helped install sustainable features at the world's fair

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The copse of 18 energy trees surrounding Terra — the Sustainability Pavilion turn almost imperceptibly every second to catch each glimmer of sunlight.

The electricity they make, added to the energy created by the pavilion's solar panels, powers the entire building, and on some days, it even contributes to the grid.

Expo is such a beautiful experience for people coming here to see the beauty of the architecture, the beauty of innovation, the beauty of technology
Elisa Ruggeri, Mati Ltd

The mechanism and the software were designed by an Italian company and delivered by a UAE-based company called Mati Ltd, which worked on 17 of the pavilions at Expo 2020.

The firm provided building materials, landscaping and also technology at Expo, including the computers controlling the large shades over the walkways and the machinery operating the water fountain in the DP World pavilion.

“I'm very proud of the energy trees. They are really innovative. We designed the mechanical part and the software that enables the precise movement of the panels to catch and maximise the sunlight,” said Elisa Ruggeri, founder and chief executive of Mati Ltd.

“They are 100 per cent sustainable and an example of how things could be done in the future.”

Solar technology is not the only sustainable product Ms Ruggeri and her company brought to Expo 2020 Dubai.

Mati Ltd was involved in creating the vertical farm in the Netherlands pavilion and the construction of several other pavilions using timber as an eco-friendly alternative to steel and cement.

The material is sustainable because any trees cut down are then replanted.

“Mati was a pioneer in promoting timber and mass-engineered timber [created using layers of wood stacked crosswise] in the UAE, and Expo was the perfect place to showcase these materials,” said Ms Ruggeri.

Elisa Ruggeri surrounded by the energy trees at the Sustainability pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

“We have delivered the timber elements for the Azerbaijan pavilion, the Belgium pavilion, the Oman Pavilion and the beautiful UK pavilion, which I'm very proud of.

“There are so many benefits to timber: it reduces carbon emissions and it is the future of our buildings all over the world.

“The timber might change colour with age, but will never collapse. Think of Venice, which was built hundreds of years ago out of wood, over water, and has not collapsed.”

After many years of working behind the scenes at Expo 2020 Dubai to bring her projects to fruition, Ms Ruggeri was delighted to see the world's fair finally populated with guests.

“I'm extremely happy with Expo. It's such a beautiful experience for people coming here to see the beauty of the architecture, the beauty of innovation, the beauty of technology,” said Ms Ruggeri.

“Also the beauty of sustainability — which must be our driving force through this century, because we have to change our approach in construction and how we live our lives.”

Updated: November 21, 2021, 4:46 PM