A design competition has been launched to find the designer for the UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, and the anticipation is already rising. Past pavilions have been created to wide acclaim by architects, artists and designers such as Thomas Heatherwick, Asif Khan and Wolfgang Buttress – all of which have gone on to win multiple awards for their bold expo designs. Now, the Department for International Trade is about to offer this chance to a new team or individual who will create the best proposal to represent the UK in the upcoming world expo, set to take place in Dubai between 20 October 2020 and 10 April 2021, under the theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the future’. We caught up with UK commissioner general Laura Faulkner to discuss the competition.
W*: What is your vision for the Expo 2020 Dubai UK Pavilion?
LF: My vision is that we will create a Pavilion which is stand out, exciting and unique. It will showcase the very best in British design, creativity and innovation. The UK has been the recipient of a number of awards for its designs and Pavilions at previous World Expos in Milan and Shanghai and at the recent specialised Expo in Astana and we want to build on our successes. The UK Pavilion will provide us with a platform to promote all that is great about Britain at an important time when we are building future global relationships and will form the centrepiece for the ‘Global Britain – Innovating for a shared future’ campaign, our theme for Expo 2020 Dubai.
W*: Who would you like to see participating in the competition?
LF: 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 are welcoming 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.
W*: Could you tell us a little bit about the site of the Expo, and specifically that of the UK Pavilion?
LF: The Master Plan for the Expo site was developed to create a physical and engaging environment which embraces the vision for the event and incorporates the theme for Expo, ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ and the subthemes, of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability which will be represented in the three districts of the Expo site. The site covers 4.38 square kilometres, just 3 per cent land area of an entirely new city (Dubai South) being created in legacy. The new city will be linked to the new Al Maktoum International Airport, set to become the world’s largest and busiest airport carrying in excess of 250m passengers a year with links to Jebel Ali Port and a short distance from Abu Dhabi International Airport. The UK will be participating with a large Pavilion, situated in the Opportunity District. The UK has selected a Pavilion location which will see a high footfall of visitors and VIPs making it easily accessible and very noticeable to all Expo visitors. The design of the UK Pavilion needs to reflect this excellent location and become a landmark that all visitors want to see. It is expected that as part of the ‘Global Britain – Innovating for a shared future’ campaign the UK will run a comprehensive events programme from the Pavilion and therefore conference space, back of house facilities and catering facilities will be required to enable this. The event space and restaurant should have their own dedicated entrances that allow access without having to go through the full Pavilion customer journey.
W*: What makes Dubai special in the history of World Expos?
LF: Expo 2020 Dubai is the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region (MEASA), and the first Expo to be hosted by an Arab nation. The Expo event will run from 20 October 2020 until 10 April 2021. Expo is expecting to host 25 million visitors, with 70 per cent of them coming from outside the UAE – the largest proportion of international visitors in Expo history. At the crossroads of East and West, the UAE is the ideal location to host a World Expo; with the ambition to create an exceptional platform for the global community to come together to address critical issues and explore pioneering solutions that could improve the lives of generations to come.
W*: What is the role of design and architecture in a World Expo?
LF: Since the very first Expo in 1851, until the present day, World Expos have showcased the world’s best and brightest. The very first World Expo, The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry took place in the Crystal Palace, in London. It was an amazing exhibition space and designed and built for the Expo. It became a showpiece for revolutionary new techniques in cast iron working and plate glass manufacture that revolutionised construction. The legacy of the first World Expo in 1851 still remains today, in the area now known as Albertopolis in London, which is home to some of the most world-famous museums. Each district of the Expo site will differ from each other. They will have an architectural expression which will be identifiable by the different materials, colours and patterns used in the district. Every pavilion on the Expo site will be an iconic building symbolising its own subtheme and providing visitors with an immersive experience. Each participating nation has the opportunity to display the very best in their architecture and design capabilities through their Pavilion, something which the UK excels at.
W*: What will inform and influence your decision in choosing the winning entry?
LF: The design is being procured via a design competition run through the official EU tender process. This process includes input from an external panel of judges with specialist expertise. The criteria are clearly set out in the tender documentation. Once registered, you can search for the opportunity via “DN320589 Dubai Expo 2020 – UK Pavilion Design Competition”.
Receive our daily digest of inspiration, escapism and design stories from around the world direct to your inbox
Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).
Zagato’s design language defines the new AGTZ Twin Tail bespoke sports car
The AGTZ Twin Tail by La Squadra and Zagato is a limited-edition grand tourer inspired by an iconic 1960s racing car
By Jonathan Bell Published
Wallpaper* returns to Milan Design Week with a new exhibition at Triennale
Announcing Wallpaper* Class of ’24, our upcoming showcase of emerging global design talent, held at Triennale during Milan Design Week (16 – 21 April 2024) in collaboration with AHEC
By Rosa Bertoli Published
NoMad London introduces afternoon tea with a New York twist
NoMad London serves up an afternoon tea menu spanning from elegant finger sandwiches to elevated New York street food classics
By Tianna Williams Published
Orchid Pavilion channels Japanese philosophy for blossoming flowers in Puerto Escondido
Orchid Pavilion by CCA Centro de Colaboración Arquitectónica provides fitting shelter for flower conservation in Mexico's Casa Wabi
By Ellie Stathaki Published
Serpentine Pavilion 2024 to be designed by Mass Studies
Minsuk Cho and Mass Studies will design the Serpentine Pavilion 2024 in London, it has been announced today
By Ellie Stathaki Published
Art Jameel pavilion in Dubai is a dome to fight climate doom
Art Jameel pavilion by Lebanese practice theOtherDada flags sustainability in Dubai, and opened to coincide with COP 28
By Nana Ama Owusu-Ansah Published
Installation SUPER LIMBO activates the empty building site of Sharjah Mall
SUPER LIMBO installation by Limbo Accra and Ivorian textile brand Super Yaya uses weaving methods to activate the paused building site of Sharjah Mall during Sharjah Architecture Triennial 2023
By Nana Ama Owusu-Ansah Published
MPavilion 10 by Tadao Ando unveiled in Melbourne
MPavilion 10 by Tadao Ando opens to the public in Melbourne, marking the tenth edition of the Australian cultural attraction
By Elias Redstone Published
Sharjah Architecture Triennial 2023 celebrates the ‘beauty of impermanence’
The Sharjah Architecture Triennial 2023, curated by Tosin Oshinowo, focuses on beauty, impermanence and adaptability; and it has just launched in the UAE
By Ellie Stathaki Last updated
East Architecture Studio, Lebanon and UAE: Wallpaper* Architects’ Directory 2023
East Architecture Studio, with a base in Lebanon and the UAE, joins the ranks of the Wallpaper* Architects’ Directory 2023, our annual round-up of exciting emerging architecture studios
By Ellie Stathaki Published
The People’s Pavilion 2023 is ‘about the power of the collective’
The People’s Pavilion 2023 launches at Lea Bridge Library, Waltham Forest in east London – and it’s designed and built by teenagers
By Shawn Adams Published