Dubai Expo’s Italian Pavilion is a futuristic, sustainable creation. The 38,000-square-feet (3,500-square-meter) masterpiece opened on Oct. 1 at Dubai Expo 2020.

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A massive pavilion lit up green at night.

Designed by Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) and Italo Rota Building Office, the Italian Pavilion stands out for its creativity in utilizing sustainable materials. Thanks to its innovative design and materials, the building has already won Best Entrepreneurial Project of the Year at the Construction Innovation Awards.

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A string facade lit up green with white text reading "Beauty connects people."

These innovative materials include 2 million recycled plastic bottles that form a multimedia facade. The designers also used recycled algae, coffee grounds and orange peels as building materials. Recycling, reusing and renewing are at the core of the design.

A rendering of people walking through the pavilion.

The roof is probably the most outstanding part of the entire design. It uses three boat hulls that could set sail immediately after Dubai Expo. According to Carlo Ratti, founding partner of CRA and director of the MIT Senseable City Lab, the Pavilion addresses issues that architectural designs have failed to address for many years.

A rendering of people walking through a pavilion and looking at a structure with two golden globe-like fixtures.

“Our design for the Italian Pavilion deals with what I believe is architecture’s most important challenge today: advancing the double convergence between the natural and the artificial. It anticipates issues and suggests strategies that will be increasingly crucial for the future of our cities as we address the consequences of the current climate crisis,” Ratti said.

A hallway leading through the pavilion.

The facade is fitted with LEDs that can be lit to transform the entire building into a multimedia surface. According to the designers, the bottles that make up the surface can be used again after the expo ends.

A room full of plants.

But what about the coffee grounds and orange peels used in the design? The coffee and orange peels were left to dry and turned into powder used to coat suspended pathways. The setting of the Italian Pavilion on a five-meter-high dune made out of locally sourced sand also speaks to the design’s sustainable focus.


Images © Michele Nastasi