Expo 2020 Dubai: solar-powered rainfall and edible plants to be on show at dazzling Dutch pavilion

The vertical farm will have real-life examples to tackle water and food shortages in harsh, desert climate

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Nature will spring into life and the power of the sun will make it rain inside a dazzling Dutch pavilion housing a vertical farm at Expo 2020 Dubai.

A giant cone blanketed with edible plants that shelters mushrooms growing within will be ready by June as the eagerly-awaited world's fair continues to take shape.

The ingenious structure will house a solar-powered rain shower that captures moisture from the atmosphere and will harvest hundreds of litres of water daily to irrigate the greenery.

"Ninety per cent of the main construction has been completed and the final phase is expected to be concluded by the end of June," Hans Sandee, Consul General of the Netherlands in Dubai, told The National.

"The pavilion will be fully handed over by our contractor, Expomobilia by the end of August 2021."

During the final phase when the interior is completed, he said, the plants on the cone and oyster mushrooms inside the pavilion would be set up and the area around the structure landscaped.

The main focus of visitors when the six-month Expo opens in October will be the 19-metre green cone called the biotope – a miniature world where the harsh, desert climate can be controlled naturally.

Visitors will see plants grown, water harvested and electricity generated.

Timlapse of the sunrise on the Dutch pavilion in Expo 2020

Timlapse of the sunrise on the Dutch pavilion in Expo 2020

Mr Sandee described it as “an unmissable visual treat with a full intense sensory experience. Moreover, it embodies the unique connection between water, energy and food.”

Dutch architects, artists and inventors have worked together to create a pavilion that captures how natural resources can be best used to protect a fragile ecosystem.

Colourful solar panels top the structure and visitors will enter the semi-sunken pavilion on a walkway that cuts through piles of desert sand.

Michiel Raaphorst, founder and director at V8 Architects, is keen for people to experience “the exciting descent into the dark and the cold” as part of the many fascinating experiences the cone will hold.

FOR RAMOLA'S STORY ON NETHERLANDS EXPO PAVILION. Construction of The Netherlands pavilion. Courtesy: Faisal Khatib
The Netherlands pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai will keep its carbon footprint small using reusable, recyclable and biodegradable material. Courtesy: Faisal Khatib

The architect and his team are selecting vibrant and fragrant edible plants including mint, tomato, lime leaves and fennel to wrap around the cone.

The floor and wall panels in the lounge of the Dutch pavilion are made from mycelium, a bio-degradable fungi-based substance, to show how mushrooms can be repurposed as building material.

“Inside the cone or vertical farm we will be growing oyster mushrooms. On the outside there will be a variety of edible plants and cresses,” he said.

"A mushroom nursery will be installed where all necessary preparations are carried out in order for the oyster mushrooms to grow."

The planners and artists aim to challenge visitors to use their imagination so aesthetics and technology can merge to build a greener world.

Organisers aim to show how innovative solutions can tackle scarcity concerns.

A key factor is for the interior to remain cool to support the plants.

“In the heart of the pavilion, the climate will be regulated using natural phenomena for which we use water that we harvest from the Dubai air,” Mr Raaphorst said.

The water in the "rainmaker" will be cooled with solar energy and produce cool air that will lower the temperature within.

Planners opted for simple, clean lines so the structure can easily be dismantled when Expo ends in March next year.

The steel used in the construction was sourced from Dubai to reduce the carbon footprint.

“Global issues such as scarcity of water, food security and rising demand of energy has always been on the radar,” said Mr Sandee, also commissioner general of the Dutch pavilion.

“With a projected view of world population of almost 10 billion inhabitants by the year 2050, it is crucial that we address these challenges.

“These are the areas that the Netherlands is eager to shed light on and contribute towards.”

He looked forward to the Expo as the first global event to be hosted after months of uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“This mega event is set to bring the world together in the spirit of unity, optimism and resilience,” Mr Sandee said.

"With the initiatives of mass vaccination programmes in the country and high-level protocols of maintaining precautionary measures for the safety and well-being of the visitors, the Expo organisers are very well prepared for all possible scenarios."

Striking pavilions will bring international flavour to Expo 2020 Dubai