Expo 2020 Dubai: Malaysia's 'floating' rainforest pavilion to be complete in May

Wooden poles will be lit up to depict fireflies, as visitors learn of the battle to save tropical jungles

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Slender wooden poles inspired by tropical rainforests that Malaysia seeks to preserve make up the signature design of the country's pavilion, to be completed next month at the Expo 2020 Dubai site.

Sunken basement gardens and ‘floating’ exhibition halls suspended on timber stilts and steel beams will tell the story of the urgent need to protect ancient trees.

At night, the 15-metre high poles will be lit up with hundreds of lights to depict fireflies in Malaysian mangroves.

The marvel of this design allows the poles to sway lightly with the gush of the wind like trees swaying in the wind

Organisers promise a mesmerising experience for visitors, as they walk down a pathway curved like a meandering river, when the Expo opens in Dubai in October.

Shamsul Nor, chief executive of the Malaysian Green Technology and Climate Change Centre, said the ‘rainforest canopy’ effect would give visitors the impression of a building floating on top of a forest of columns.

"The marvel of this design allows the poles to sway lightly with the rush of the wind, like trees swaying in the wind," Mr Nor told The National.

“The architectural intent is to touch the ground as lightly as possible.”

The pavilion's core and shell is 92 per cent complete, with construction scheduled to end in May.

Made of meranti wood – a South-East Asian rainforest tree – the facade reflects how trees in the dense jungle fight to reach up to the sunlight.

The roof of the Malaysia pavilion  has 40 solar panels attached as part of energy efficiency plans for the structure. Courtesy: Malaysia Pavilion EXPO 2020 Dubai

There is minimum use of concrete, so the building material can be recycled when the expo ends next year.

"The rainforest is the lung of the planet. Its importance has never been greater anytime than now, with the challenge of climate change," said Mr Nor, the pavilion project director.

“Malaysia is proud to be a tropical developing country that recognises the importance, as well as the challenges, to protect this ancient biosphere for humankind.”

Exhibition halls will be housed in two-storey high “allegorical tree columns reaching up for sunlight, trying to be taller than their neighbours so that their food-generating foliage escapes the darkness under the forest canopy,” Mr Nor said.

An auditorium, business centre and cafe have been placed in the basement four metres below the surface, with architects ensuring sunlight and natural ventilation reach a sunken garden.

About 40 solar panels on the roof of the Malaysia Pavilion will contribute to 10 per cent of its energy requirements.

A water feature at the entrance will depict a river, as part of the sustainability component where recycled water will cool the area.

A suspended ramp will lead visitors into an immersive experience to learn more about the forests and animals that live within.

As part of a #MyButterflyEffect campaign to show how a small event can have a momentous effect, activities will be organised so visitors can understand how a few changes in their lifestyle can contribute to larger change.

Malaysia's striking black and green national butterfly, the Rajah Brooke's birdwing, is the pavilion's emblem, representing a greener future for the country and the world.

"For Expo 2020 Dubai, the Malaysia Pavilion's #MyButterflyEffect brand campaign is a holistic concept to encourage and inspire people to empower themselves towards new thinking, new actions and new outcomes for sustainable development," Mr Nor said.

The country’s agriculture sector, with a focus on science, technology and renewable energy, will be part of the exhibitions.

The amphitheatre will also host daily cultural shows and craft demonstrations

Expo pavilions - in pictures