As Expo Milano 2015 reaches full swing, Made Journal visits the Foster + Partners designed UAE Pavilion, which celebrates the country’s vernacular architecture, while looking ahead to the Government’s vision for a sustainable future.

Bringing the planning principles of the traditional desert city to Milan, the UAE Pavilion’s interior of self-shaded streets evokes the experience of the UAE’s ancient communities, while demonstrating the natural energy efficiency of their compact urban form. Sand-rippled walls 12-metres high guide visitors along a winding pathway and up a gently inclined ramp to a cylindrical theatre.

Influenced by ancient planning principles, the paths through the pavilion are suggestive of the narrow pedestrian streets and courtyards of the ancient desert city – and its contemporary reinterpretation in the sustainable Masdar City masterplan in Abu Dhabi, also designed by Foster + Partners. The walls continue throughout the 140 metre site in a series of parallel waves, unifying the visitor spaces within a dynamic formal language designed to express the ridges and texture of sand dunes.

To convey a distinctive sense of place, the texture of the walls derives from a scan taken in the desert. The GRC (Glassfibre Reinforced Concrete) panels are supported by a steel frame. The design follows the principles of LEED with a combination of passive and active techniques. Most significantly, the building is designed to be recycled and rebuilt in the UAE after the Expo.

In creating the pavilion, Foster + Partners has worked closely with The National Media Council, United Arab Emirates, Chairman, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Commissioner General Salem Al Ameri.


Of the innovative design, Norman Foster said: “We are very proud to be chosen to create the national pavilion for the United Arab Emirates. 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.

Expo Milano 2015 runs 1st May – 31st October 2015