with the opening of the expo 2020 dubai earlier this month, renowned architects worldwide celebrate human progress and ingenuity. the national pavilions have been designed to celebrate the contributions of their respective countries across history, along with the envisioned futures that new innovations seek to bring. 


the expo opened on october 1st, 2021 with pavilions by celebrated names including foster + partners, grimshaw, and santiago calatrava. the expo will end on march 31st, 2021 so there is still time to visit in person — but for those who don’t plan on making the trip, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite pavilions below. 



sustainability pavilion by grimshaw 


2020 expo dubai pavilion
grimshaw’s sustainability pavilion at expo dubai generates its own energy and water | read more here



designed by grimshaw, the sustainability pavilion dubbed ‘terra,’ at expo 2020 dubai welcomes visitors underneath a massive tree-like canopy that accommodates more than 6,000 sqm of photovoltaic cells. this is all part of the architect’s vision to demonstrate a new way of living sustainably in a challenging desert environment.


called ‘terra’, the sustainability pavilion occupies a prominent site at the long-awaited world expo. surrounding the main building are 19 ‘energy trees’ ranging from 15-18m in diameter, which generate 28% of the energy required to power the pavilion. the structures are inspired by dragon’s blood, a tree found only on socotra, an island 200 miles off the coast of yemen.



finland pavilion by jkmm


2020 expo dubai pavilion
the first layer of snow inspires JKMM’s finland pavilion | read more here



JKMM architects has designed the finland pavilion to highlight the country’s deep connection to nature and commitment to sustainability. called ‘snow cape’, the completed building features a crisp white exterior and a tent-like entrance.


the snow cape fuses several aspects of finland into one building, from finnish nature to the country’s long tradition of minimalist and modernist design. these ideas are articulated in five design elements: ‘cool breeze’, ‘first snow’, ‘wooden heart’, ‘frozen art’, and ‘fresh water’.



spain pavilion by external reference + onionlab


explore some of the best pavilions at the expo 2020 dubaithe studios together design the interactive exhibition at the spain pavilion | stay tuned for our upcoming coverage!



external reference and onionlab design the exhibition tour of the spain pavilion at expo dubai 2020. the two spanish companies merge design, art, and technology to create a unique immersive experience. the space comprises a 3D printed artificial forest capable of producing oxygen and a tree that reacts to the sustainable habits of the public.


with the motto ‘intelligence for life,’ the barcelona-based studios dedicate the interactive exhibition to sustainability and collective intelligence. it details some of the most relevant contributions of spanish culture to the world and highlights spain’s relationship with arab culture. the ‘bosque de la inteligencia,’ (the intelligence forest), marks an artificial 3D printed forest that immerses visitors in an extraordinary world where digital and physical dimensions produce unique experiences.



uk pavilion by es devlin


2020 expo dubai pavilion
giant conical pavilion spells out poems with your contribution | read more here



three years ago, it was announced that the artist and designer, es devlin, was undertaken to complete the UK pavilion for expo 2020 dubai. ‘the poem pavilion’ is the first one (for a UK pavilion) that is designed by a woman, since the event’s inception in 1851, and will be launched on 1 october 2021 at expo 2020 dubai.


inspired by one of stephen hawking’s final projects, titled ‘breakthrough message’, the huge timber conical structure invites visitors to contribute with their words. composed by AI (artificial intelligence), it collects words and spells out poems that illuminate its twenty-meter high facade.



morocco pavilion by OUALALOU + CHOI


explore some of the best pavilions at the expo 2020 dubai
OUALALOU + CHOI designs its morocco pavilion as a stack of 22 volumes | read more here



OUALALOU + CHOI‘s moroccan pavilion is comprised of 22 stacked volumes, spanning a massive 4,000 square meters, and shows a 33-meter-high rammed earth façade — the biggest of its kind. the pavilion pays tribute to traditional moroccan design and construction techniques and aims to show how they could be applied to contemporary urban contexts. 


the rammed earth construction not only offers a visual connection to traditional morrocan architecture, it also contributes to the passive cooling of the building along with wooden interior façades that double as sunscreens. OUALALOU + CHOI hopes the earthen structure is an example of how traditional moroccan building methods can inspire more sustainable models of urban development.



mobility pavilion by foster + partners


explore some of the best pavilions at the expo 2020 dubai
foster + partners’ fluid ‘mobility pavilion’ celebrates human progress | read more here



foster + partners completes its three-winged mobility pavilion dubbed ‘alif,’ offering visitors an experience that will merge the digital world with the physical, exhibiting iconic historical figures whose innovations have shaped the technology of the modern world. the pavilion will host the world’s largest passenger elevator, capable of transporting approximately 160 people at once.


the architects at foster + partners titles its mobility pavilin ‘alif’ in reference to the first letter of the arabic alphabet, an homage which honors the beginning of human progress in its journey across ever expanding frontiers.



uae pavilion by santiago calatrava


explore some of the best pavilions at the expo 2020 dubai
santiago calatrava unveils UAE and qatar pavilions at expo 2020 dubai | read more here


santiago calatrava announces the completion of the UAE and qatar pavilions. originally scheduled for 2020, the international event was postponed for one year due to the coronavirus pandemic. the highly anticipated world expo finally opens today, october 1st, and will run for six months until the end of march 2022.


the calatrava-designed UAE pavilion takes center stage at the heart of dubai’s expo site with a design described as ‘a symbolic interpretation of the flow of movement’. the architects top the 27.8-meter-tall building is topped with a massive movable roof composed of 28 ‘wings’, which can fully open within three minutes, positioning themselves anywhere between 110 and 125 degrees.