The net-zero energy Singapore Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai advocates green architecture and showcases the possibilities of integrating nature within urban environments. Displaying lush greenery, digital solutions and art, the Pavilion exemplifies Singapore’s vision of sustainable development to become a “City in Nature.”

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To the left, a green tower where people stand on a balcony. To the right, a construction worker next to a green wall.

The Pavilion features extensive, multi-layered greenery, achieved by the careful planting of more than 170 plant varieties and large mature trees. Constructed by WOHA, the building is titled “Nature. Nurture. Future.” It’s set to debut on October 1.

Related: WOHA to transform polluted swamp into green university

A view from the ground as a construction worker above works on a green wall.

WOHA has designed a striking pavilion with hanging gardens. The building is orientated around three central cones on three levels. At the top is a solar canopy. Vertical walls of plants envelop visitors in an inviting three-dimensional green space that provides a cool respite from the buzz and excitement of the Expo grounds.

A cluster of red flowers.

Landscape design and digital and art elements are helmed by Singapore landscape architecture firm Salad Dressing, in close partnership with WOHA. The planting strategy for the Pavilion includes plants from diverse, unique habitats from the natural heritage of Singapore, including varieties found in the tropical rainforest, freshwater forest streams and mangrove habitats. 

A transparent bubble surrounded by red and orange flowers.

Dubai’s desert environment poses a significant challenge to installing such a biodiverse human-designed habitat. The Pavilion’s perimeter is protected by trees and palms that thrive well in the Dubai climate, mimicking natural forest layers to shade and shield the interior. Sun-loving plants such as Singapore’s national flower, the Vanda Miss Joaquim, frame the Pavilion’s entrance, where they receive the most direct sunlight.

A transparent bubble with science beakers and equipment inside.

As part of water conservation efforts, potable water produced through the on-site solar desalination process is deployed through drip irrigation to minimize water wastage. Leaf litter is also used to replace water-consuming ground cover and retain water in the soil. Together with misting, the greenery helps to increase humidity and thermal comfort within the Pavilion. 

Computer generated images of plants, trees and birds.

Measuring about 70 centimeters in diameter, three climbing robots weighing 40 kilograms each will be deployed to traverse the vertical green walls of the Pavilion’s thematic cones. These prototypes from Oceania Robotics work in service of plant health. In addition to inspecting the health of the plants, they will also capture data for the calibration of irrigation and grow-light settings to help the plants thrive. The robots can recognize plants in poor health that need to be replaced.

An illustration of an orange flower.

The customized planting palette and innovative technological applications used in water and energy management are design strategies that enable the Singapore Pavilion to achieve its net-zero energy target. Visitors are invited to participate in a generative artwork at the Galleria that allows them to visualize the performance of the Pavilion’s integrated ecosystem and how it impacts the environment.

Before and after images of a mobile game demonstrating plant growth.

This generative artwork is a result of interactive mobile gameplay using the Pavilion’s data collected through the climbing robots and sensors. Players “collect sunlight” using solar panels to power the desalination process that will produce potable water for the virtual saplings, which then grow into trees to remove pollutants in the air. The gameboard is unique for each player and determined by real-time data from the Pavilion. Through this game, visitors can learn more about the Pavilion’s sustainable strategies. This playful interaction is also a reminder for visitors of how their actions impact collective environmental outcomes. 

+ Singapore 2020 Expo

Images © Singapore Pavilion, Expo 2020 Dubai and Arthur Ng/National Parks Board