Terra the Sustainability Pavilion at Expo 2020 by Grimshaw

Published Categorized as Architecture, Blog, Exhibitions

The sustainability pavilion, designed by the British firm Grimshaw, is one of the greatest design at the Expo 2020 in Dubai.

Expo 2020 in Dubai

The Universal Expositions (Expos) are a global opportunity for innovation. They are held every 5 years with occasional special expos happening in between. The expos aim to transform people by inspiring them and introducing them to novel ideas. One enters into the site, sees and experiences the pavilions and exhibitions and comes out as a new person.

The Dubai Expo 2020 opened on October 1st 2021 and lasted for 6 months until the end of March 2022. It was the largest universal exhibition to date. More than 20 million people have visited it from all over the world, which is even more remarkable considering that it was held during a global pandemic.Ifo It showcased  architecture, global culture and innovation and included over 200 participants: nations, multilateral organizations, corporations and educational institutions. The theme of the Expo was “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” underscoring how the modern world is interconnected and the need to generate sustainable solutions to global problems.

Terra sustainability pavilion

The sustainability pavilion, designed by the British firm Grimshaw, is one of the greatest design and engineering accomplishments at the Expo. The building generates its own energy and uses the most advanced building techniques. It fully responds to the topic of sustainability and achieves net zero energy even in the harsh conditions of the desert. The goal of this pavilion is to make people more conscious about the life choices they make and how they are affecting the planet. It shows a new way of building and living and highlights the topics that need to become at the center to sustain life on earth.


The architects at Grimshaw say about it: 

“Drawing inspiration from complex natural processes like photosynthesis, the dynamic form of the Pavilion is in service to its function, capturing energy from sunlight and fresh water from humid air. The relationship of building to site, and to its physical and cultural contexts is critical, as the facility’s strength lies in its capacity to demonstrate a new way of living sustainably in a challenging desert environment.”

With temperatures of up to 50C, it’s challenging to cool down the building. The design uses a combination of vernacular and contemporary techniques for the climate control of the building. The vernacular ones include placing most of the building volume below ground where the temperature is naturally lower, and also using the natural air flow to move hot air out and bring cool air inside.

Perhaps the building is also a good example of biomimicry. It is inspired by the trees in Socotra (Yemen) with its large roof that brings all the weight to the center. The building is a huge solar panel barely touching the ground on a small area: it’s like a mushroom, having a base with a much smaller area . The structure is impressive and masterful, especially given how challenging it is to cover such a large space without columns while bringing the weight to a single point. The solar trees surrounding the main building rotate and follow the movement of the Sun just like sunflowers.

The exhibit inside is quite informative and perhaps geared mostly to a young audience. They learn how their lifestyle impacts the environment and how to live in more harmony with it by measuring some of their daily habits and learning new concepts and themes to help solve the climate crisis.

The sustainability pavilion is truly unique. It’s far reaching into the future with its design and exhibition. The architects made a bold statement on how our buildings can be both net zero energy and beautiful. Luckily, the pavilion will remain after the expo and will be converted into the Science museum of Dubai.

Dubai Expo 2020 has set the bar really high for future Expos. It has been one of the largest, most visited and well executed events. Dubai has a lot to be proud of and so do the differentparticipating nations as well. We look forward and hope that the lessons learned from the Expo will make a difference in creating a better world.

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