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Expo 2020 Dubai UK Pavilion contest launched


The Department for International Trade has launched a design contest for the UK Pavilion at the World Expo in Dubai in 2020

The multidisciplinary team chosen for the £1.7 million design contract will create a landmark structure showcasing UK innovation within the opportunity zone of the 150ha expo site (pictured) on the fringes of the UAE’s most populous city.

The winning scheme will be expected to respond to the event’s ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ theme, harness groundbreaking digital technologies, and build on the UK’s track record of pavilion successes. Both the Shanghai 2010 pavilion by Heatherwick Studio and the Milan 2015 pavilion by Wolfgang Buttress and BDP won the ‘best in show’ prize, while Asif Khan’s pavilion for the smaller Astana 2017 Expo won a silver design award.

In its brief, the DIT says ‘the expo provides the UK with an ideal platform to project Britain as a global force for prosperity, innovation, creativity and thought leadership. It provides the UK government with the ability to showcase British expertise rooted in cutting-edge design and a dynamic and open cultural and business sector, projecting both heritage and modernity, in line with Gulf Strategy and across the broader Middle East and south-east Asia.

‘We are seeking a dedicated, inventive, multidisciplinary creative team that will enable us to interpret the UK’s contribution to the theme, in a way which creates the most original, inspiring and memorable visitor experience possible. We are looking for a holistic concept that unites the structure with the content. This competition offers you the chance to follow those who have gone before with another inspirational triumph.’

Dubai is the largest and most populous city in the UAE and will be the first entity within the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia region to host a world expo. HOK and Arup were selected four years ago to masterplan the £4.75 billion exhibition, located next to Dubai World Trade Centre’s 440ha Jebel Ali development .

Foster + Partners, BIG and Grimshaw Architects were chosen to deliver three permanent centrepiece pavilions focusing on mobility, opportunity and sustainability respectively, following a series of competitions two years ago. The six-month-long expo is expected to attract 25 million visitors and will run from October 2020 to April 2021.

In 2016, a team featuring Weston Williamson was chosen for a new £2.2 billion metro route serving the Expo 2020 Dubai. Planned to complete in 2020, the extension to Dubai’s Red Line includes an 11.8km viaduct and 3.2km of underground track.

Dubai beat Sao Paulo in Brazil, Yekaterinburg in Russia and Izmir in Turkey to win the rights to host the high-profile global event in November 2013. The expo – themed ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ – will be the first ever to be held in the Middle East and North Africa & South Asia region.

Practices that have recently set up studios in the wealthy emirate include Grimshaw Architects, Zaha Hadid Architects, Foster + Partners, Assael Architecture and Santiago Calatrava. Once complete, the expo site will be expected to accommodate up to 300,000 visitors.

The deadline for applications is 24 April.

How to apply

View the contract notice for more information

Contact details

Steph Wakeford
Department for International Trade
3 Whitehall Place

Email: stephanie.wakeford@trade.gov.uk



  • Laura Faulkner, UK commissioner general Expo 2020 Dubai

Laura Faulkner, UK commissioner general Expo 2020 Dubai

Laura Faulkner, UK commissioner general Expo 2020 Dubai

Laura Faulkner, UK commissioner general Expo 2020 Dubai

What is your vision for the UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai?

The Department for International Trade (DIT) has launched a design competition to find a team to design the UK’s Pavilion for Expo 2020 Dubai. We are seeking a dedicated, inventive, multi-disciplinary creative team that will enable us to interpret the UK’s contribution to the theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ in a way which creates the most original, inspiring and memorable visitor experience possible.

As the first World Expo to take place in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia region, and the first to be hosted by an Arab country, the opportunities to connect with one of the most dynamic, young, and fastest growing regions in the world are immense. The expo will create a ‘the world in one place’ environment with an expected footfall of 25 million visitors from across the Gulf States and all over the world including all of the UK’s key trading partners.

We anticipate a highly innovative and creative design which should bring to the fore new technologies and innovations which the UK is currently developing. The design is expected to build on the success of Asif Khan, Wolfgang Buttress and Thomas Heatherwick who have previously designed expo pavilions for the UK.

The UK’s presence will consist of a self-build Pavilion in a large plot within the Opportunity District of the Expo site.

Expo 2020 Dubai

Expo 2020 Dubai

Expo 2020 Dubai

How will the UK’s Pavilion in Dubai match the UK’s award-winning presence at previous expos?

The UK’s presence at the Expo will be designed around the theme ‘Global Britain – Innovating for a shared future’. The UK will deliver an outstanding presence at Expo 2020 Dubai, building on its award-winning presence at previous Expos in Shanghai, Milan and Astana. The brief is seeking a high-impact, innovative and creative solution that promotes the very best in British design and technology. The UK Pavilion will form the centrepiece of all the UK’s activity in the UAE, the Gulf and beyond for the period of the expo. As with The Hive in Milan and The Yurt in Astana, the UK Pavilion will offer a unique, and unforgettable experience for all visitors.

What sort of architects are you hoping to work with?

We want to get the widest possible response to the tender to ensure we can meet the brief. We are looking for a stand out idea delivered through a holistic design approach – across multiple disciplines. We welcome submissions from established designers as well as newer and smaller teams. This is a fantastic opportunity for any and all designers. The winning design team will benefit from instant international recognition. This competition offers designers the chance to continue earlier British success by delivering another inspirational triumph for the UK.


Readers' comments (3)

  • Having just been stuck there overnight, it may be UAE’s most populous city but what's really incredible is that it has a 10 mile wide clusterf+ck of the ugliest, most tasteless new buildings to be found in any city, anywhere. One after another. Deeply impressive.

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  • Phil Parker

    i say just build a bridge over it.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Ha! I see what you did there, Phil.... very apropos.

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