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Foster completes ‘canyon-like’ pavilion for UAE at Milan Expo

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These are the first photographs of Foster + Partners’ United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) pavilion at the Milan Expo in 2015 which opened today

The scheme, close to the centre of the world fair, is based on the ‘compact urban form’ of the federation’s ancient desert communities and features narrow self-shaded pedestrian streets and courtyards to promote ‘natural energy efficiency’.

Visitors enter the elongated pavilion through a ‘canyon-like’ entrance made from two 12 metre-high walls which continue in a series of ‘parallel waves’ through the 140 metre-long site.

Constructed from GRC panels supported by a steel frame, the structure is designed so it can be demounted and reconstructed in the UAE following the high-profile event. The panels’ texture is based on scans taken in the Emirati desert.

At the pavilion’s centre is an auditorium where visitors can watch a film before following a path through an exhibition focussing on Dubai’s role as host city for the Expo in 2020.  

The trail ends with a ground level café and first floor formal restaurant where visitors can sample modern Emirati food – in response to the Milan Expo’s ‘feeding the planet’ theme.

Norman Foster said: ‘We are very proud to be chosen again to create the national pavilion for the UAE.

‘Our challenge has been to design for two climates – to create a naturally cool, comfortable space for visitors in Milan, while considering the pavilion’s ultimate reconstruction in the Emirates, where there is a need to provide shade from the intense sun.

‘The design reflects our investigations into the form of ancient cities and our appreciation for the desert landscape.

‘It also maximises the opportunities presented by the elongated site – the dramatic canyon-like entrance will welcome people inside, and the channels between the high walls provide intuitive circulation, naturally leading visitors to the auditorium, exhibition and restaurant spaces.’

The practice completed a 3,500 m² undulating pavilion – inspired by sand dunes – for the federation at the Shanghai Expo in 2010.

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