UAE pavilion for 2015 milan expo by foster + partners
all images courtesy of foster + partners / UAE expo milano 2015




designs by foster + partners have been unveiled for the united arab emirates’ pavilion which will form part of the 2015 milan expo. the universal exposition will take place in the italian city between may and october, welcoming 141 participant countries from around the world.


the pavilion’s compact urban design references the planning principles of a traditional desert city, incorporating self shaded streets which recreate the experience exploring an ancient desert civilization. the structure has been developed to be dismantled after the event and transported to the UAE where it will be reconstructed. consequently the design must function in two very different climates.



foster partners united arab emirates pavilion 2015 milan expo designboom
an aerial view of the sinuous project which spans the length of the 140 meter plot




the project, which will be located close to the center of the expo, will be accessed from the site’s main circulation axis – the ‘decumanus’. from this entrance point, visitors are enticed inside the pavilion between two twelve meter walls, forming a canyon-like opening. envisaged as a series of parallel weaves, the curved and undulating partitions call to mind the ridges and texture of sand dunes, while also controlling solar access – a more pressing concern once the structure is transported to the UAE. reflecting time-honored planning methods, internal pathways echo the narrow pedestrian streets and courtyards associated with desert towns and villages.



foster partners united arab emirates pavilion 2015 milan expo designboom
internal pathways have been designed to call recreate the experience exploring a desert civilization




guests circulate along a sinuous ramp, where a range of objects can be interacted with via a personal tablet dispensed at the pavilion’s entrance – offering attendees an experience which is at once educational and entertaining. the path then leads to a large auditorium, contained within a drum at the heart of the site. visitors then follow a path interspersed with further digital talks and multi-media displays, including an exhibit celebrating dubai as the host city for the next expo in 2020.



foster partners united arab emirates pavilion 2015 milan expo designboom
(left) the fauna and terrain has been designed to reflect that of emirati landscapes
(right) the primary circulation channel which connects the pavilion




responding to the expo’s encompassing theme of ‘feeding the planet, energy for life’, the scheme offers insights on nutrition and sustainability, following four fundamental keywords: sustain, care, innovate and share. at the end of the exhibition trail a range of on-site dining facilities are housed within a three storey structure, with a ground level café providing guests with a variety of emirati food options. a formal restaurant is found at first floor level, while above a roof garden, complete with juice bar, offers views across the entirety of the site.



foster partners united arab emirates pavilion 2015 milan expo designboom
the design has been developed to be dismantled after the event and reconstructed in the the UAE




the design is intended to have one of the lowest carbon footprints of any of the expo’s pavilions, with a LEED target of ‘platinum’. this is to be achieved through the implementation of both passive principles and active techniques – from rainwater capture on the roof garden, to the integration of photovoltaic cells. further reducing the scheme’s carbon output, designs were presented at a live press conference connecting hubs in london, milan and abu dhabi.


‘we are very proud to be chosen again to create the national pavilion for the UAE. our challenge has been to design for two climates – to create a naturally cool, comfortable space for visitors in milan, while considering the pavilion’s ultimate reconstruction in the emirates, where there is a need to provide shade from the intense sun’, explained norman foster.



project info:


client: national media council
architect: foster + partners
foster + partners design team: norman foster, david nelson, spencer de grey, gerard evenden, martin castle, john blythe, andre ford, giovanna skylos labini, ronald schuurmans, daniel skidmore, andrea soligon
collaborating architect: marco visconti
structural engineer: foster + partners
mechanical and electrical engineer: foster + partners, manens-tifs
local collaborating fire engineer: GAE engineering s.r.l.
quantity surveyor: fraser randall
landscape consultant: WATG
lighting consultant: david atkinson
acoustic consultant: sandy brown associates
project manager: fraser randall


appointment: 2013
projected construction start: 2014
projected completion: 2015
site area: 4,386 sqm
area (gross): 5,000 sqm
net internal area: 3,500 sqm
exhibition area: 1,175 sqm
number of floors: 2-3
building height: 17m
building length: 140m
building width: 40m
building capacity: 785 people per hour