UAE Pavilion


Following the ‘better city better life’ theme of the Expo, the brief was to design a building which captures the spirit, energy and sustainable awareness of the UAE and an iconic symbol to represent all seven emirates. The design should accommodate areas to exhibit three main components the past, present and future and a VIP / business center facility to conduct future trade with China and the UAE.


Eastern section of the Expo site, south of the Huangpu river, and within easy reach of the Chinese pavilion. It is one of the largest plots available to the expo participants.


The form of the building has been inspired by the sand dune, a natural feature that is shared by each of the seven emirates. The pavilion demonstrates its passive environmental measures by orientating towards the north, with the solid shell forms protecting against direct glare and winds from the south but allowing indirect light to enter the habitable areas via a complex series of louvers. The truly sustainable feature of the design is that it can be dismantled and relocated back to the UAE after the expo is finished. The outer cladding is a rosy gold – colored stainless steel designed to shimmer and recreate the changing patterns and colors of the UAE’s natural environment.


Visitors will approach the pavilion by a designated pathway, which has a series of seating, live performances and AV presentations along its route towards the entrance so immersing them into the ideas and themes of the exhibition. Entering the pavilion, visitors will be guided into one of two small theaters where they will see a short film, taking them from the birth of the UAE to today. Leaving the film theaters, both groups of visitors will enter a secondary space where reactive technology and AV tells the daily lives of an Emirati family. From there, moving into a large, darkened theater space, the visitors will be taken on a stimulated ‘dream Journey’ to the UAE, showcasing its many magnificent attractions. The final area of the pavilion provides visitors with a wide range of information on the country.

Leaving the Pavilion, visitors will be entertained by live music, performances and experience the culture of the UAE. They will also be able to wonder through the sculptural area, taking memorable snap shots of the visit or find comfortable seating where they can relax and take in the atmosphere presented by the UAE.


Foster + Partners’ design for the UAE pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo has broken ground. Drawing inspiration from the form of a sand dune, the pavilion is a reference to this symbolic feature of the desert landscape shared by each of the seven emirates. The landscape and climate of the UAE are integral to Emirati culture. Like a sand dune, the pavilion appears smooth on the side that bears the full force of the wind and rough and textured on the other side. The northern elevation is more porous to admit natural light, while the southern elevation has a solid façade, to minimize solar gain. A stainless steel skin, treated to appear golden, encloses the jewel-like shell. The complex structure is a triangulated lattice of flat stainless steel panels, joined by adjustable nodes, which are designed to enable the pavilion to be demounted on site and constructed quickly and economically. The peak rises to 20 meters in height and it is entered via a glazed lip at the pavilion’s base. Light penetrates the building’s business center and VIP area through glazed vertical strips, which illuminate the pavilion from within by night. Internally, the fit out by Ralph Applebaum Associates offers an interactive experience, and a dynamic lighting design will reveal the exposed lattice shell of the structure.

With capacity for 450 people and enclosing 3,000 square meters of exhibition space, the pavilion is one of the largest structures to be built for the 2010 Shanghai Expo and will highlight the UAE’s progressive stance on sustainability. Responding to the Expo’s ‘Better Cities, Better Lives’ theme, the pavilion will showcase projects such as the Masdar Initiative, a new 6 million square meter carbon neutral zero waste community in Abu Dhabi, intended to become a center for the development of new ideas for energy production.


“The cities of the UAE rise from the desert and the pavilion will similarly emerge to form a natural counterpoint to Shanghai’s urban landscape. Like a sand dune, it is oriented to the direction of the wind and is a powerful example of an organic and highly effective passive environmental design.”

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