penda’s austrian office has teamed up with smartvoll to present a proposal for the country’s pavilion at the upcoming dubai expo. titled ‘the source of everything’, the project features a supersized mill that circulates water through the structure in order to refresh the event’s thousands of visitors. by letting guests dance in the rain, the pavilion intends to promote water as both a public asset and a basic human right.

penda expo dubai 2020
all images courtesy of penda



upon entry, visitors receive umbrellas that protect them from direct sunlight outside of the pavilion, before lining up in its shadow. a sequence of watermills transports clean austrian rainwater to the top of the structure, before releasing it drop by drop throughout the building. guests can then decide how to interact with the water, which comes in various forms of vapor, droplets, and pouring rain.

penda expo dubai 2020
the pavilion immerses visitors in austrian water



after interacting with the water, visitors are guided to the lower level and a large table. here, they can dry their clothes over a glass of water and a chat with fellow visitors. to allow wind to flow through the structure, it remains open on both sides. meanwhile, on top of the pavilion, shades protect visitors from dubai’s intense sun.

penda expo dubai 2020
 a sequence of watermills transports water to the top of the structure



‘in my opinion, a pavilion at the expo shouldn’t be a box that solely showcases products and companies,’ says philip buxbaum, partner of smartvoll. ‘at its best, a pavilion offers a surprise, a fun time with a message and an adventurous exploration. by creating a lasting impression, it will connect the visitors personally to the values of a country and its culture.’

penda expo dubai 2020
water comes in various forms of vapor, droplets, and pouring rain



‘usually, the task of a building is to protect against the weather,’ adds penda’s chris precht. ‘but once we started the process, we didn’t want to create an indoor space and fill it with air-conditioning to make it visitable. that’s not a sense of sustainability the expo should stand for. we also didn’t want to close up the pavilion because it could rain one time per month. so we emphasised on the topic. our building leaks, drops, vapors, steams. and rains. in this sense the austrian pavilion is one large sprinkler that refreshes its visitors.’

penda expo dubai 2020
visitors are then guided to the lower level and a large table



‘the source of everything’ is a collaboration between penda austria and smartvoll and has been selected as a finalist in the international competition for the austrian pavilion at expo 2020 dubai.

penda expo dubai 2020
umbrellas in the colors of the austrian flag are provided

penda expo dubai 2020
the pavilion intends to promote water as both a public asset and a basic human right

penda expo dubai 2020
animation illustrating the movement of the watermills



project info:


by: penda austria & smartvoll
consultants: facts and fiction, wolfgang pauser
name: the source of everything – austrian pavilion for the expo 2020
type: pavilion, exhibition
location: dubai, UAE
year: 2018
team: chris precht, philip buxbaum, christian kircher, fei tang precht, dietmar jaehn, robert müller, andreas horbelt, wolfgang pauser, thomas vournazos (stage 1)
instagram: @chrisprecht_penda | @smartvoll
renderings: virginlemon