The theme of Expo 2020 Dubai is “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.” In line with this, the Belgian Pavilion, called The Green Arch, seeks to be exemplary in the realm of sustainable development. The architects, Vincent Callebaut Architectures and Assar Architects, have used futuristic design through greenery, solid timber construction and passive energy to showcase how developments in architecture will give rise to environmentally-friendly cities.

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Evening view of the pavilion

Located in the “Mobility District” of the Expo site, the building serves several purposes. By organizing the main exhibits on higher floors, the ground level is left open for use by the public and features delectable Belgian gastronomy. The pavilion also maximizes the prevailing west-east winds of Dubai and creates a well-ventilated covered space with 3D-printed white concrete street furniture.

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Corner detail of building facade showing spruce facade and balconies with lush greenery

The Green Arch is also a “bridge-building” that links the Mobility and Sustainability districts at Expo 2020. The pavilion is formed of two pillars and a vault with double curvature, also known as a hyperbolic paraboloid. The paraboloid that envelopes the project is made of 5.5 linear kilometers of spruce cross-laminated timber (CLT) and forms a giant mashrabiya, an intricate perforated screen that controls sunlight and filters in cool breezes, taking a modern approach to Middle Eastern vernacular latticework.

View looking up to the top of the space-time tunnel escalator

The pavilion is powered by renewable energy and uses a large photovoltaic canopy to produce electricity and heat water for the building. The playfully cantilevering balconies and extensive rooftop not only provide views to other parts of the Expo site but also house over 2,500 plants, shrubs and trees, which are drip-irrigated and create the pavilion’s refreshing microclimate through evapotranspiration.

Interior exhibit within the pavilion with comic-style infographics

Through educational scenography, visitors embark on an immersive experience through the country in 2050, encompassing the theme of a technologically advanced and eco-friendly Belgium in the decades to come. A futuristic escalator is designed to simulate the experience of a space-time tunnel, casting the guests to the future and into the exhibits that showcase how the nation’s three regions, Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia, are working towards a smarter, greener future.

View of the dynamic cantilevering balconies with abundant greenery

Upon the completion of the Expo 2020 event, the pavilion will not be destroyed. “The building will not be doomed to destruction,” said Pierre-Yves Dermagne, the Belgian Federal Minister for the Economy. “Everything has been done so that it can be rebuilt, I hope, in Belgium.”

+ Vincent Callebaut Architectures and Assar Architects

Images courtesy of Nizar Bredan, Greg O’Leary, and Vincent Callebaut