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expo 2020 dubai: designboom previews 10 national pavilions to look out for

expo 2020 dubai, the first world expo ever hosted in the middle east, africa, and south asia (MEASA) region, is getting ready to welcome the world later this year. after being postponed as a result of the pandemic, the event was rescheduled for 2021 and will open to the public on october 1. the event’s organizers have already invited visitors to preview the site with many of the pavilions already complete. through the theme of ‘connecting minds, creating the future’, the expo will showcase the best examples of collaboration, innovation, and cooperation from around the globe.


with expo 2020 dubai set to open on october 1, 2021, designboom takes a closer look at some of the national pavilions on display, including structures designed by vincent callebaut, WOHA, and moon hoon. read our list in full below with insights from the architects involved.



japan pavilion

expo 2020 dubai national pavilions
image and video courtesy of expo 2020 dubai



designed by yuko nagayama, the japan pavilion features a façade that combines traditional arabesque and asanoha patterns — representing the long history of connections and crossing of culture between japan and the middle east. ‘in terms of the cultural connection, I took my starting point from the similarities we can see between middle eastern and japanese geometrical patterns, and explored this across a facade that is a new kind of geometrical 3D lattice serving as the structure and environmental filter,’ explains tokyo-basd architect yuko nagayama. the pavilion’s elevations also protect occupants from the hot sun, while a pool of water in front of the structure will cool the area and reflect the dynamic façade.



france pavilion

expo 2020 dubai national pavilions
image courtesy of expo 2020 dubai



the france pavilion has been designed by the collaborative team of atelier perez prado and celnikier & grabli architectes. climbing to a total height of 21 metres (69 feet), the pavilion is topped with 2,500 square meters (26,910 sqf) of photovoltaic solar tiles and will provide a panoramic view of the expo site. light is the architectural theme for the pavilion and this will be expressed in various forms, including daily light shows. the pavilion also seeks to showcase the country’s renowned gastronomy.



belgium pavilion


video courtesy of the belgium pavilion



the belgium pavilion, referred to as ‘the green arch’, has been designed by archibiotect vincent callebaut. with a focus on sustainability, the building will host 10,000 plants as well as showcasing the country’s world-famous fries. ‘the ‘green arch’ will be belgium’s showcase for six months,’ callebaut tells designboom. ‘as an architect, we want to promote the know-how and innovations of the best belgian manufacturers and companies in all fields. the gourmet kiosks, the immersive exhibition, the brasserie, the business center, each space is carefully thought out to highlight our art of living, our gastronomy, our ingenuity, our engineering, and our ecological commitments.’



switzerland pavilion

expo 2020 dubai national pavilions
image courtesy of expo 2020 dubai



designed by OOS, the switzerland pavilion reflects the country and its diversity — from magnificent landscapes to innovative projects and ideas for a sustainable future. in reference to temporary tent buildings of the bedouins, the pavilion is made of scaffolding elements and textiles, while the façade is clad with a giant interactive mirrored façade. internally, visitors can go on a hike through a sea of fog, or even travel on a magic carpet. the route culminates in one of the expo’s best views on the pavilion’s roof terrace.



korea pavilion


video courtesy of the korea pavilion



the republic of korea pavilion has been designed by moon hoon alongside mooyuki architects. exploring the future of mobility, the building features a dynamic façade that constantly changes through the course of day, while the kinetic installation interacts with its audience and surroundings. ‘the design is very spontaneous, sketchy, energetic, and ephemeral and has many many vertigo-inspiring rampways,’ moon hoon tells designboom. ‘the whole building is an expression of possibilities and the potential of an exhibition architecture and artwork.’



australia pavilion


image courtesy of expo 2020 dubai


designed by bureau^proberts, the australia pavilion encourages visitors to explore a diverse land built on 60,000 years of innovation. the pavilion is topped with a canopy for shade and gathering. ‘its predominant form is the digital sampling of a cumulus cloud, a natural phenomenon that is mobile across all australian landscapes and is indeed evident across the world,’ explain the architects. ‘the cumulus cloud is agile and ever changing and is a sign of clear weather and expansiveness. the cloud canopy is represented as a tectonic form, made up of a series of elements that combine to create an abstraction of the cloud as a large, strong and beautiful shape. vertical, powder-coated aluminum blades in varying lengths are fitted at different heights to create the appearance of a single billowing form.’



ireland pavilion

expo 2020 dubai national pavilions
image courtesy of expo 2020 dubai



the ireland pavilion, designed by ciarán o’connor, comprises two interlinked structures: the oculus and the garden. the oculus is the main structural space and consists of a circular room covered by a cone-shaped funnel with a view of the sky — inspired by the megalithic newgrange lightbox and its alignment toward the rising sun around the winter solstice. here, visitors will experience an immersive exhibition experience, designed to be an emotive and impactful introduction to ireland. meanwhile, the garden is a multipurpose meeting, event, and performance space, and will house most of the program activities. this space is designed as a square within a square, with an open roof and roofed internal perimeter — bringing to life both the european cloister and the arab garden.



singapore pavilion


read more about the project on designboom here | video courtesy of WOHA architects



designed by WOHA, the singapore pavilion explores humankind’s journey towards livability and resilience. showcasing singapore’s urban innovations, the net-zero energy pavilion features a rainforest powered by a self-sustaining ecosystem — offering an immersive 3-dimensional greenery experience. ‘planting trees and increasing green spaces is the most widely available and effective way to combat the effects of man-made climate change,’ explain the architects. ‘the singapore pavilion at the 2020 world expo in dubai integrates landscaping into its design, showing that the built environment does not need to displace nature.’



russia pavilion

expo 2020 dubai: designboom previews 10 national pavilions to look out for
image courtesy of expo 2020 dubai



the russia pavilion, designed by SPEECH, promises ‘an opportunity to glimpse inside human nature’. the domed structure, shown above, will eventually be wrapped in bands of color. at night, the building will be illuminated. internally, the exhibits on view will attempt to answer the question: how do we find our places in the world or better understand each other despite our differences?



austria pavilion


video © timelapse middle east, courtesy of querkraft architekten



designed by querkraft, the austria pavilion hopes to create a calm atmosphere that can lead to creative solutions. the pavilion comprises 38 white cones, an architectural concept that turns the simple shape of a cone into a complex, merging space. following the model of wind towers from local building tradition, the cones of different heights cause air to constantly move, providing temperature balance. the exhibition inside the pavilion takes visitors on a journey through spectacular spatial sequences, bringing together sensory and digital experiences in a harmonious structure.


see designboom’s ongoing coverage of expo 2020 dubai here, as we continue to countdown to the event’s opening on october 1, 2021.

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