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Contest for UK pavilion at Expo 2017 Astana begins

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UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) has launched a competition for the UK pavilion at the 2017 international expo in Astana

The ‘highly innovative, creative and unconventional’ £2 million installation will focus on UK efforts in pioneering future energy technologies.

The iconic building is expected to follow in the success of the UK’s Wolfgang Buttress and BDP-designed Milan 2015 pavilion and Thomas Heatherwick’s Shanghai 2010 pavilion which both won best in show.

The project has a preliminary budget which is however significantly lower than its high-profile predecessors which cost around £6 million and £26 million respectively.

Astana is one of the smaller, specialised expositions which traditionally take place two years after the larger universal expositions such as Milan and Shanghai.

The UK was absent from the last of these smaller events held in Yeosu, South Korea during the 2012 Olympics.

Host nation pavilions for the Dubai 2020 universal exposition by Foster + Partners, BIG and Grimshaw were revealed last month.



Dubai 2020: Mobility pavilion by Foster + Partners



Dubai 2020: Opportunity pavilion by BIG



Dubai 2020: Sustainability pavilion by Grimshaw

UK expo commissioner Charles Hendry commented: ‘Expos are a chance to showcase the best of the UK’s creativity and innovation to a global audience.

‘It’s no exaggeration to say that an expo can make a designer’s name with world-wide exposure of their work.

‘We want a Pavilion that stands out, providing a unique experience for visitors and which can help us to deliver on our ambitious business programme.’

Chicago-based Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture won a contest to masterplan the 173 hectare exhibition in the capital of Kazakhstan three years ago – defeating rival bids by Zaha Hadid Architecture, UNStudio and Snøhetta.

The theme of the 2017 expo in Astana is ‘Future Energy’, with three sub-themes: ‘Reducing Carbon Emissions’; ‘Living Energy Efficiency’, looking at ways in which people can live using less energy; and ‘Energy for All’, providing low cost and reliable energy for the planet.

Running for 93 days from 10 June until 10 September, the event will be the first time a world’s fair has been hosted by a member of the former Soviet Union.

AHR won planning for the £370 million first phase of the 2017 Expo Village project in Astana in 2014



AHR’s first phase of Green Block, the 2017 Expo Village project in Astana

The UK pavilion will occupy a 2,200m² space which will be pre-built to shell and core by the expo organisers.

The winning multi-disciplinary integrated design team will deliver comprehensive design services for the project and assist with the procurement of a design and build contractor

Delivery of a developed design, including 2D/3D visuals, AV, interactive and graphic design; and the provision of architectural, structural and services engineering services are all included in the £250,000 contract.

Documents must be requested by 11am on 6 May and the deadline for applications is 9 May.

How to apply

View the competition announcement for more information

Contact details

Bernie Marsh
UK Shared Business Services
North Star House

Email: bernie.marsh@uksbs.co.uk



Source: Image by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

Astana Expo 2017 masterplan by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture


  • UK expo commissioner Charles Hendry

UK expo commissioner

UK expo commissioner

Charles Hendry

What is your vision for the UK pavilion at the Expo 2017 in Astana?
I want the UK to have a ‘stand out’ pavilion which shows the extraordinary work being done in UK businesses and Universities in the field of ‘Future Energy’ and to do this in a way that maximises the goodwill and business opportunities for the UK. Our relations with Kazakhstan are the best they have ever been and the Astana Expo is a superb opportunity to use great design and creativity to show our commitment both to the country and to the theme of the Expo. We have a formidable track record from the Expos in Milan and Shanghai at having pavilions everyone wanted to visit and photograph – we need to maintain that next year and show what a dynamic, creative, forward looking country we are.

How will the £2m installation match the impact of its Shanghai (£26m) and Milan (£6m) predecessors with a smaller budget and a pre-defined exterior?
Astana is a smaller, specialised Expo, lasting three months (June 10th – Sept 10th) as opposed to the world Expos in Shanghai and Milan which ran for six. Kazakhstan, as host, is providing all participants with pre-built pavilion space as part of the overall design. Freed from the need to conceive an enclosure – designers are liberated and challenged to conceive an environment rich with experience. It also means that the bulk of the £2m budget can be spent creating a high impact, creative and innovative interior instead of factoring in the costs of exterior construction. Working with a pre-defined exterior and space is a different challenge for architects and designers. Every country will be starting with the same exterior visual, so the challenge this time is to have a design that immediately captures the imagination of the visitors as they come through the door and offers a unique and unforgettable experience within the pavilion itself.

What sort of architects are you hoping to work with?
We want to get the widest possible response to the tender and encourage all designers – large and small - to come forward with creative and exciting ideas. We have kept this to a pure design competition in order to attract the strongest design teams. We are asking bidders to put together a team that is experienced and agile enough to develop their design from concept to final drawings in the timescales set out in the tender. We hope that smaller practices will be able to find partners who will enable them to do this. The winning design will be developed with UKTI and the chosen design team to a stage where it is ready to be tendered to a build competition in the summer of 2016.

Which recent exhibition fit outs have you been impressed by?
This is of course a team effort and not a one-man process, so I have also asked my team for their thoughts on this too. Apart from the UK pavilions at Milan and Shanghai, which have deservedly won prizes, we would highlight three of particular note: the UAE Pavilion, designed by Norman Foster and representing undulating sand dunes, included exceptional visual displays of how the Emirates are using sophisticated technology to overcome challenging climatic conditions to make the land fertile for cultivation and development. The Kazakhstan Pavilion combined both traditional displays of sand drawing and agricultural production - including a pond of live sturgeon - with the only 4D experience at the Expo taking visitors on an immersive experience travelling through Kazakhstan. The Expo hosts, Italy, created a spectacular exhibition in Pavilion Zero, taking visitors through the history of farming world-wide from the Middle Ages to the present day, including global food commodity trading, the growing problem of food waste and how communities the world over are tackling extreme climate, conflict and humanitarian conditions to provide food for local populations. It was extremely impressive.

Astana 2017

Astana 2017

UK pavilion floorplan

Source: Astana 2017

Astana 2017




Source: Image by Hufton + Crow

Wolfgang Buttress and BDP’s UK pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo



Source: Image by Iwan Baan

Thomas Heatherwick’s £26 million ‘seed cathedral’ at the Shanghai World Expo

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