Santiago Calatrava also celebrates the Qatar Pavilion; having delivered two structures to welcome millions of visitors from around the world to the United Arab Emirates’ international event.

Dubai, UAE  – With just 38 days left of the World Expo 2020 in Dubai, Santiago Calatrava reflects on the first World’s Fair in the Middle East where he was behind the host country’s pavilion, the UAE Pavilion, as well as the Qatar Pavilion.

Located at the heart of the nearly 500-acre exhibition site, the spectacular architecture of the UAE Pavilion, designed by Santiago Calatrava, proudly reflects the UAE’s history and ambitions. The design takes its inspiration from the majestic falcon, the state’s national bird, spreading its 28 moveable wings in symphony as a symbol of the UAE’s strength and heritage.

One of the overriding concepts behind the design is ‘connectivity’ – evoking the power of connections that transformed the UAE from a small desert community to a global hub. Embracing this idea are the numerous radial pathways surrounding the Pavilion allowing visitors to experience it from 360 degrees, similar to the way in which the UAE has welcomed citizens and people from all corners of the world.

The first three months of EXPO saw a multitude of visitors welcomed into the immersive journey within the UAE Pavilion. It begins by taking us back to where it all began – in a tranquil desert oasis surrounded by soothing and historically-symbolic water features and breathtaking nature. Visitors nestled beneath the shade of the floating wings are guided toward the sunken gardens along ramps that create lingering moments and captivating vantage points to capture the Pavilion. Upon entering, visitors are immersed in the history of the United Arab Emirates as they navigate their way through softly lit sand dunes, providing a dramatic contrast in light and atmosphere. The UAE Pavilion takes visitors on a journey of the past 50 years, introducing us to the Emirati values, never-before-seen footage of Sheikh Zayed, and the UAE’s remarkable evolution: from its ancient roots as a crossroads for people, goods and ideas, to its transformation into a unified nation which is home to people from over 192 countries.

Soon after, the faceted sphere of the central auditorium captivates visitors with a dramatic and dynamic story of the nation’s historical narrative, overwhelmed with pride and optimism. With a specialist lifting platform, up to 200 people are transported upwards as the cinematic experience draws to a close. We end our journey under the brightness of the Oculus, as we step into the future of the UAE, inspired and informed by the dreamers who are shaping a better tomorrow through impressive technology, self-drive vehicles, sustainable solutions, and research labs.  Throughout the Pavilion, Calatrava displays a symbolic interpretation of the flow of movement through the articulation of carefully crafted spaces and planned lines.

In line with the UAE’s commitment to sustainable development and Expo’s theme of generating sustainable solutions to global problems, the architectural design of the Pavilion aimed to meet the highest standards of sustainability and was certified LEED Platinum, implementing elements that are energy efficient, reduce water consumption, and optimise indoor air quality, amongst other features.

“It is an honour to have designed and delivered the host country’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.  Symbolic of the UAE’s pioneering spirit and ambition, the design draws inspiration from the Falcon – the national bird of the UAE – and represents the nation’s boundless vision for the future through 28 movable wings that propel innovation and human evolution. We hope that the UAE pavilion will evoke beauty and innovation for years to come.” said Santiago Calatrava.

“We enter the new year excited for the final three months of Expo and delighted with the public’s reaction of the UAE Pavilion so far; seeing how it inspires people and evokes profound emotions. The vision behind this structure took on many forms and challenged us to ensure that the result of the design wholly represented the UAE.” said Micael Calatrava, CEO of Calatrava International.

UAE Pavilion

Additional architectural features of the UAE Pavilion include:

  • The Pavilion spans across an area of 15,000 meters (over 161,000 square feet) and 27.8 meters in height, the largest Pavilion at Expo
  • An Oculus skylight at the apex of the roof which mirrors the form of the Expo 2020 logo.
  • 28 movable ‘wings’ that make up the roof, which can fully open within three minutes, positioning themselves anywhere between 110 and 125 degrees.
  • When open, the wings reveal a surface grid of photovoltaic panels. The panels have been designed to absorb the maximum amount of sunlight to harvest energy which is returned to the main power grid. When closed, the wings shelter and protect the photovoltaic panels from rain and sandstorms.
  • A sphere shaped, multi-faceted auditorium located in the centre, serves as both a centrepiece and functional space with a capacity of 200 people.
  • The space displays a symbolic interpretation of the flow of movement through the articulation of carefully planned lines and crafted spaces.
  • Landscaped areas with thousands of plants from 12 different species, eight of which are native, as well as over 80 trees, with approximately 45 of the trees holding cultural importance for the UAE.

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