British studio Foster + Partners designed a clover-shaped pavilion to anchor the mobility district at Expo Dubai.
Named Alif after the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, the Mobility Pavilion is located at one of the main entrances to the site, which is marked by a walkway designed by Asif Khan. Its name was chosen to symbolize the beginning of the movement process.
The building designed by Foster + Partners has a distinctive trefoil shape with three large petals cantilevered outward from the base of the building.
Each of the petals was built to contain a gallery with immersive exhibits designed by London-based design consultancy MET Studio.
“The basic concept was to create an internal vessel for the three Expo mobility sub-themes, this provided the trefoil plan, with each theme having its own ‘hall’,” said Gerard Evenden, Senior Executive Partner at Foster + Partners.
“Creating an attractive outdoor landscape for everyone to enjoy was our next idea,” he told Dezeen. “Finally, making the building sustainable and adaptable to the legacy underpinned the way we carried out the design in detail.”
The pavilion, which will remain on site after the Dubai Expo ends, is wrapped in a series of horizontal aluminum louvers.
Designed to evoke a sense of movement, while also referencing chrome fenders and airplane wings, louvers shade the windows on the building facade.
“We referenced wind tunnel images and aeronautical elements to capture the idea of movement in the outer shell of the building, the horizontal bands circulate around the building, widening to allow light inside and lifting up to create the entrance canopies, ”Evenden said.
“We wanted to reflect and capture the movement around the building so that the curved fins reflect the surrounding movement and light, they also allow the pavilion to transform from day to night, picking up the colors and light of the Expo.”
“The use of stainless steel refers to airplane wings, rockets and racing cars,” he continued.
“It was also chosen over aluminum because of its performance in the environment and its ease of manufacture to adapt to the complex geometries of the building.
Visitors enter the pavilion at one of the three entrances between the petal shapes where the aluminum fins are raised.
They make their way to a circular elevator, which the exhibition organizers say is the tallest elevator in the world, which takes them to the top of the building.
Visitors then descend from the walkways that lead to each of the gallery spaces. The first looks at the history of mobility and contains three nine-meter-tall statues created by Oscar-winning design studio Weta Workshop.
The second gallery explores the modern era, while the third focuses on the future.
“Good exhibition pavilions are always about the harmony between architecture and the visitor experience, the building is as much an exhibition as what’s inside,” said Peter Karn, Creative Director of MET Studio.
“Here it’s the navigation through space that really connects the two. The large central lifting platform takes visitors to the top, then a series of descending ramps take them through each of the immersive acts,” a- he continued.
“That feeling of constant movement, as if you are disentangling the history of human mobility as you move around, really enhances the experience.”
At the base of the building is the exit next to a cafe and gift shop. A series of private event spaces are located above the exhibits on the top floor.
Around the pavilion, a 330-meter track, which will be used to demonstrate current innovations in transport, surrounds the building.
The Dubai Expo is the last World’s Fair – an international exhibition that has contributions from 180 countries. These include the British flag designed by Es Devlin, the Italian flag topped by a boat and the Qatar flag and the United Arab Emirates flag, both designed by Santiago Calatrava.
The photograph is courtesy of Expo 2020 Dubai.