How is Expo 2020 Dubai going? After the inaugural boom, with peaks in holdings that exceeded expectations, these first weeks of opening – altogether 26 weeks are planned – look promising. From 1 October, total accesses to the exhibition area have reached almost one and a half million visitors (according to official data, released on 25 October 2021 by the organizing body, which specifies that the data includes visitors who have crossed the entrance more than once to visit several thematic and national pavilions on different days). Over 200 thousand visitors in attendance at the Italian Pavilion; they are then joined by the virtual ones, or 3.4 million users reached through the web portal, social channels (Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube) and the Pavilion app. A figure in constant and marked increase in the last four weeks. These numbers give hope, above all because the debate on important issues related to the UN is being kept high goals of 2026, but also to the role of our country in the European Community. Obviously central issues, also considering the objectives already present in the design concept of the Pavilion.
SPACE, DESIGN AND FOOD: WHAT HAPPENS IN THE ITALIAN PAVILION
Hundreds of initiatives hosted in the Pavilion until March 31st. On 23 October, Expo Dubai wanted to celebrate the European Union Honor Day and the ten years ofAction on Nutrition (2016-2025) of the United Nations; The Vice President of the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas, also took part in the event. It was therefore the turn of the Space Week, in which Italy wanted to participate with a first-rate role and which saw, among others, an interesting panel dedicated to housing solutions for life on the moon presented by Severino Meregalli, scientific coordinator of DEVO Lab – SDA Bocconi. On stage were Valentina Sumini, architect of the Space and researcher of the MIT Media Lab, and the designer Giulio Cappellini. Together they illustrated the difficulties of recreating the perception of light, colors, materials and circadian rhythms in a completely different environment, where technology is an ally of beauty and comfort.
THE CIRCULAR ARCHITECTURE OF THE ITALIAN PAVILION
Interpreting the general theme of Expo Dubai “Connecting minds, generating the future”, Italy contributes decisively to the comparison between the participating countries on future ideas and projects. The architectural project by Carlo Ratti, Italo Rota, Matteo Gatto and F&M Ingegneria, with an exhibition curated by Davide Rampello, he already sees in his skin a declaration of intent. As Rota tells us, from the thousands of plastic bottles ready to be recycled upon disassembly, which come alive daily with the projections, up to its spatial articulation, the Pavilion is based on well-structured design criteria in association with Carlo Ratti: “The first criterion is that of a circular architecture, which contains a series of elements that go into the system to turn towards and beyond the sustainability of the project. The second is the relationship between natural and artificial, in which innovation and pedagogy interact to invite the visitor to reflect on the proposed themes.“. An example? “The facades are born from the idea of the large numbers of recycling: they are made up of 2 million recycled plastic bottles that form long cords designed as a filtering skin, so much so that the building, inside, is not air-conditioned. A series of chains of thoughts that bind and develop in the building’s founding narrative”, Continues Rota. “And hence the third element, fil rouge of everything: use recycled and recyclable raw materials, reused and reusable for a true cyclicality of the system”.
RATTI AND ROTA TELL THE ITALIAN PAVILION
Where does the shape of the Pavilion come from? What image did you want to give of Italy with this project?
Carlo Ratti: Under the three boats that make up the roof of the building we have thought – more than a shell – of a dynamic facade open to atmospheric agents, with a natural climate mitigation system that replaces air conditioning. This facade was made of nautical ropes, in turn produced through the recycling of about 2 million plastic bottles. Overall, the Pavilion is inspired by the themes of circular design – which recurs throughout the project thanks to the use of recycled / recyclable and reused / reusable materials and components.
The exhibition path curated by Davide Rampello addresses the many faces of Made in Italy in response to the theme “Connecting minds, generating the future“. How did you solve all this in setting up the exhibition spaces?
Italo Rota: Our project interprets both the theme of Expo Dubai and that of Italian participation, namely “Beauty brings people together”, An extension of the Expo connection theme. The choice of the roof of the building evokes the historic connections by sea between the Italian and Arabian peninsula. Three boats arrived in Dubai become the roof of the Pavilion and, at the end of the Expo, they can be used to sail to new destinations. There is also an international breath and tension towards the future, evident in the choice of materials, symbols and innovations introduced in the project.
Traditional materials, such as painted majolica, projections and LED walls: how do hi-tech and scenographies interact in the exhibition design you studied and what were the key points of your design?
Carlo Ratti: We have to separate the container – designed by us – from the fittings curated by Davide Rampello. The choices relating to majolica and LEDs were made by Rampello. From our point of view, the fil rouge that binds every aspect of the container is circularity, as we said before.
There is also a Piranesian structure. Could you tell us more about this iconic structure?
Italo Rota: The entire experience of the Pavilion is conceived as a path, which starts from an escalator that leads visitors to the level of 11 meters above the ground, directly under the aisle of the first hull. From this panoramic point it is possible to observe the entire Pavilion and glimpse the surrounding context, and then start walking on a walkway suspended above the exhibition spaces and installations. Among the main spaces there is the Belvedere: a circular building surmounted by a dome covered with wild plants of the Mediterranean scrub: a reference to the Renaissance gardens and the Italian landscape.
‒ Flavia Chiavaroli