The Brazilian Pavilion at EXPO 2020 features the waters of Brazil – its rivers and mangroves, birthplace of the fertility of life, a natural inheritance that underlies all discourse about sustainability on the planet. With its tensile steel structure and lightweight white fabric, the pavilion is a fabric onto which videos are projected, creating an immersive atmosphere of variable images, sounds, aromas and temperatures, over an area of undulating, shallow water through which the pavilion’s visitors may walk.
The abstract creates an interesting place of interaction that of an arresting scenic character. It is a stage for the visualization of a nature and culture focused both on preservation and on a future made sustainable through technology. Innovative to the core, the Brazilian Pavilion is the work of collaborative efforts of three renowned architecture offices, namely, MMBB Arquitetos + Ben-Avid+ JPG.ARQ.
The three renowned design firms have co-authored the content of the Brazilian Pavilion: Sao Paolo-based MMBB Arquitetos led by current partners Milton Braga, Marta Moreira and Maria João Figueiredo; Martin Benavidez leads his design firm Ben-Avid based in Córdoba, Argentina; and Sao Paolo-based JPG.ARQ architecture studio is led by José Paulo Gouvêa.
Brazilian Pavilion’s architecture is once-in-a-lifetime experience. The structure’s shades and protects the waters during the day time. At the turn of dusk, the pavilion transforms into a luminous, floating cube. Immersed in projections, sounds, vapours and subtle aromas, the pavilion space forms the essence of the proposed museographic experience of the fluvial waters of Brazil.
The architectural concept of the Brazilian Pavilion has been brilliantly designed as a work of abstract. The whole land of Brazil descends in Dubai for the visitors to experience the beaches and backwaters of the nation with a thin layer of water creating a grand plaza of water. A uniform, dark topography, made of black pigmented, sanded, non-slip concrete, derives its poetic motif from the Rio Negro in the Amazon basin.
Shielded by a tensile structure 48 meters wide and 18.5 meters tall, four vertical panels make up a covering and an impluvium that is secured by cables anchored to the water mirror. Visitors wishing to enter the water without wetting their feet will be offered ‘Goldon boots’, well-known in Venice and worn during acqua alta. Milton Braga reveals, “Water being the central element of the proposal with its associations with our long and profound relationship with our rivers. Here, it becomes a construction material and the support for the exhibition.”
The ground floor is the primary area for visitors. Access becomes more restricted the further we move away from it. The structural clarity makes it quick to assemble and disassemble. A well-thought strategy as it does not require the kind of large-scale transportation that the exhibition might suggest. As is the case with Brazilian architecture, its structural logic arises as an inseparable part of its architectural logic and the logic of its use, and in this case is museographic.
The first floor is fully air-conditioned. It is accessed by stairs and a large capacity elevator. There is a multi-purpose room for lectures, debates, movies and small-scale shows. The lighting is completely controlled. A high-resolution screen is envisaged for presentations in ambient light. From the foyer, visitors get an arresting view of the water plaza below.
The first floor space may be used for complementary exhibitions, such as that of delicate or valuable objects. This floor and the next also have spaces for private meetings with Brazilian government officials and for technical use. Out of sight, on the roof are the fire water reservoir, air-conditioning machines and museographic devices, such as image and light projectors, speakers and sprinklers for aromas.
Facilities complementary such as a café, restaurant and shops to the exposition are also located in the pavilion. These are contained in a separate, suspended, trellised volume that projects over the water plaza, in the manner of the houses on stilts or palafitas, found in northern Brazil.
Marta Moreira explains, “Eschewing images that diminish the complex diversity of our natural resources or conceal an urgent critical consciousness about the future of the planet, we present the pavilion as a grand water plaza over which hangs a great solar cloud, embracing its visitors and encouraging them to participate actively in a Brazilian environmental experience.”
The structure was envisioned in steel, both in the roof of the pavilion and in the space beneath. The pavilion presents a tensile structure with only four columns that support large trusses on its four façades. The upper edges is stretched with the fabric of the roof, tensioned so as to take the form of a concave impluvium of four faces that converge in a water spout, positioned slightly off-centre.
In the horizontal plane along the top of the trusses of the façade is envisioned a compression ring formed by the beams of the façade and by two more beams inserted in the former, rotated and crossed over each other, so as to form struts between the nodes of the façade trusses. The whole set of steel bars is detached from the cover, creating pleasing shadows thrown onto the translucent fabric. The internal volume has trusses in both of its longitudinal façades, each supported by two pillars, resolving in a rational manner the large proposed cantilevers.
The dark and crystalline water of the Rio Negro formed by the decomposition of the leaves of the forest is the poetic motif of the meandering landscape created in the pavilion – a water plaza or a lake. The ambience of the pavilion is created by abstract projections of vegetation, river springs, waterfalls, the meetings of rivers, feathered art and indigenous body paintings, and a powerful chromatic intensity. These are accompanied by variations in the humidity of the air, the vaporization of water in the environment, subtle and changing aromas of flowers, fruits and mangroves, and sounds that alternate between indigenous songs, such as the Bororo fertility rituals, and the ‘mangue beat’ of urban rock from Chico Science.
The water plaza of the Brazilian Pavilion is not only a space for visual contemplation, but also a place of enjoyment and interaction, of partying. It is the stage for the most important activities of the pavilion, such as acoustic musical performances, dance and theater presentations that will exploit its daring characteristics. It takes its inspiration from the urban installation ‘Auditorium for delicate issues’ by Guto Lacaz, which will be recreated on the water mirror.
Image Courtesy: MMBB
Photographer: Jon Wallis