It was 10am in the UK, 11am in Italy and 2pm in the UAE when, aided by the latest streaming media technology, the United Arab Emirates revealed details on Tuesday of its participation in Expo Milano 2015 at an innovative global press conference.
Harnessing interest in its Expo participation, triggered by Dubai’s successful bid to host World Expo 2020, speakers in London, Milan and Abu Dhabi directly addressed international media in over 30 countries.
"We are acutely aware of the carbon footprint associated with our Expo participation", commented the country’s Expo Commissioner-General, Salem Al Ameri.
"Where we can work effectively in cyberspace (reducing our long distance flights), we will do so. Today is one of those occasions," he added, welcoming the pavilion’s architects, Norman Foster and Partners, in London, the 2015 Expo organisers in Milan, Masdar executives, and senior members of the UAE Expo team in Masdar City-Abu Dhabi where the webcast was hosted by Abu Dhabi's renewable energy company, Masdar, on behalf of the UAE National Media Council.
The UAE’s Expo 2015 Commissioner-General congratulated the Italian Expo organisers on their choice of theme (Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life) , which resonates with Italy’s food culture, and on their determination that the Expo should play a positive role in tackling the issue of ensuring sufficient, good, healthy sustainable food for all mankind.
"Masdar is proud to have supported in the design of the UAE Pavilion for Expo Milano 2015," said Dr Nawal Al-Hosany, Director of Sustainability at Masdar. "We are pleased to have had the opportunity to share our knowledge and experiences from the development of Masdar City."
Whilst the UAE is keen to present a unique story centered around the ‘water, food, energy nexus’ and is committed to its ‘Food for Thought’ theme in all its fascinating dimensions, the clear focus of those attending the event via online logins, was 'what shape of building and experience would the UAE come up with this time?'
It is clear that the Foster and Partners’ team has risen to the challenge, creating an intriguing venue to attract even the most urbane Italian visitors, and one that lends itself to a refreshing and original presentation of the U.A.E.’s story.
Design criteria for the pavilion were influenced by the unusual elongated dimensions of the plot on which it sits, occupying a prominent location midway along the ‘Decumanus’ or central avenue of the main Expo site. High, sand-rippled walls guide visitors along a winding pathway and up a gently inclined ramp to a cylindrical theatre.
"Our aim was not simply to create an iconic building but to build a space that is an integral part of our story and of the theme itself. Everything that we have done is connected to the U.A.E. and its efforts to achieve sustainable solutions. We draw on natural landscape and vernacular architecture as well as modern designs that are themselves influenced by traditional forms. A roof-top garden will help to supply the restaurant whilst a variety of green energy technologies will be employed," stated Gerard Evenden, the project’s leading architect and a senior partner at Foster and Partners.
Visitors will be engaged from the moment they enter the site, stimulated by Emirati hospitality, personal story-telling, powerful media, delicious food offerings and culinary displays, interactive experiences, augmented reality and other innovative techniques.
The UAE’s Commissioner-General commented that the UAE has approached the theme of ‘Feeding the Planet: Energy for Life’ with a "determination to first of all look into our own past and our own experiences of trying to feed ourselves. We have learned quickly that what might have been possible in the past is no longer an option today. Our population growth has exceeded global growth rates, climbing rapidly from around 225,000 when the UAE Federation was formed in 1971, to over 9 million today!"
"We want to show our visitors how we are dealing with this situation and how, with the cooperation of pioneering and innovative companies such as Masdar, the UAE is committed to sharing our knowledge and resources to help others tackle similar problems," Al Ameri added.
Unusually, the pavilion that is being designed and built for the 2015 Expo in Milan will not simply be dismantled and destroyed after the gates close, but is destined to be packed up, shipped back to the UAE and reconstructed to serve as a new attraction in the capital, Abu Dhabi.
"We had to design for conditions in both Milan and Abu Dhabi," commented Gerard Evenden. "It was a great architectural challenge!"