The exhibits at this year’s Expo 2020 Dubai (postponed to 2021 due to the pandemic), feature a range of innovative designs from around the world. Working within the theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” the German Pavilion highlights sustainable features that cater to the desert environment

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The outside of the German Pavilion looks like a series of blocks stacked together

Architects at LAVA accepted the challenge to make a temporary structure for millions of visitors that spoke to the concepts of connectivity, sustainability and local relevance. The result is a pavilion that stands as an example of creating more with less. 

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An inside corridor hall has a escalator case descending downward across the photo, underneath it is a stage and seating area

“The key question was how to design a temporary exhibition and event space for up to three million visitors in a desert environment that was sustainable,” said Tobias Wallisser, director of LAVA. “LAVA’s solution linked the expo theme of connectedness with our approach of ‘more with less,’ with humans interacting with nature and technology at its heart.”

A room with a mirror ceiling so that the people standing are reflected above

Using the minimum amount of material for construction was a goal from the start, so the team created a series of vertically-stacked cubes with minimal site impact that provide maximum space. The ensemble represents connectedness while serving function in providing an open space and large atrium for visitors to explore individually or as a group.  

Blue cylindrical objects

“Architecture isn’t purely a façade. Of course we wanted the building to be Instagrammable,” said Wallisser. “But also innovative, thought-provoking, with an effective experiential quality. The hardware of the building creates a journey for visitors from around the world.”

People standing in white coats over a white table conducting research

Overall, the structure mirrors the design of local courtyard houses that close the outer façade and face the activity inward. The positioning of the building’s components creates a passive design for natural airflow. However, the flexibility of the canopy roof and open-able, single-layer ETFE membrane façade results in a hybrid air conditioning system with notable energy savings.

Various round tables where people are looking at the objects on the table

The natural shading from the hot desert sun decreases heat inside the building while simultaneously minimizing the bulk required to support the structure. The technical canopy provides filtered natural light that resembles a forest canopy. The materials are malleable to move with the wind and adapt to local changing weather conditions. 

In front of the German Pavilion is an actual pavilion where there is a shaded area with cutout figures covering the overhang of it

Besides minimizing the amount of materials, the team carefully selected parts that could be recycled. As a result, 95% of the pavilion will be recycled after the six-month exhibition ends in March 2022. 

The outside of the German Pavilion looks like a series of white blocks stacked together

“An efficiently stacked volume of space, responding to the local environment with an intelligent climate management system,” said Alexander Rieck, director of LAVA. “This project shows how buildings can be optimized, made intelligent, be reconfigured and can adapt to changing users, environments, temperatures, acoustics and light.”


Photography by Andreas Keller and Taufik Kenan