A Montreal-based firm, KANVA, developed a thought-provoking display for the Canada Pavilion at World Expo 2020 Dubai. Called TRACES, it’s an interactive and eye-opening look into the effects of climate change on wildlife. In their recent showcase, the team used migratory birds as the subject for the project, which was commissioned by Global Affairs Canada and produced by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB).

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Boxes in front of the Canada Pavilion

“The concept for TRACES began with the location of the Canada Pavilion in the sustainability section of the Expo grounds, and with the main exhibition being inspired by Canadian landscapes and natural diversity,” said Rami Bebawi, a KANVA partner and lead architect of the TRACES project. “We wanted to create something that would emphasize the threats that climate change and global warming pose to those same landscapes and, more specifically, to the species that inhabit them.”

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Boxes set spaced apart

The exhibit is made up of eight boxes that walk visitors through a progression of understanding and appreciation for the plight of birds experiencing a rapid decline of suitable habitats. The title TRACES represents what may be left of their existence without attention to protecting their existence.

Statue birds stuck inside a box

“They are simply erased from memory and our collective amnesia allows us to persist in their destruction,” said Olga Karpova, architect and senior project lead at KANVA. “TRACES reinterprets that cycle by fossilizing the species to ensure that it is not forgotten.”

A cube in front of a mural of flying birds

Each of the box displays measures eight feet length, 8 feet width and 8 feet depth. They contain objects for reflection. The Jewel box focuses on fossilized birds on a pedestal, accentuated by lighting that offers an ominous setting.

Sculpture trapped inside a wall

The Nearness box features a wall of migrating birds against a backdrop of filtered light. The Memorial box appeals to the emotions with a tomb of fallen birds. The Forgotten box represents waste stacked in cubes that has been thoughtlessly discarded. The Seat box places visitors at an old school desk where they can reflect on their personal responsibility towards sustainable actions. Opening the desk reveals a 3D-printed bird struggling from the effects caused by ocean spills.

Four chairs and a table with a cube on the table

The Gathering box highlights collective responsibility, empowering group-think problem-solving with birds emerging into flight. Sounds around the table devolve from notably distressed birds to soothing nature sounds as discussions around the table offer hope. The Sanctuary box offers insight to a human-free world where birds thrive.

Four chairs on the ground and a bird cage hanging from the ceiling

Finally, the eighth box, labeled The Awareness, consists of four chairs facing each other from the corners. Intense sounds set a tone for concern and an empty bird cage hangs from the ceiling.  


Photography by Gerry O’Leary