Designed by CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati and Italo Rota Building Office with Matteo Gatto and F&M Ingegneria – Italy’s Pavilion’s ‘Moving Architecture’ at Expo 2020 was officially opened to the public on the 1st of October 2021 in Dubai, UAE. The Italian Pavilion features three boat hulls as the structure’s roof, a multimedia façade made with two million recycled plastic bottles and a natural climate mitigation system that substitutes for air conditioning as an experiment into reconfigurable architecture and circularity.

Beauty Connects People

Italy’s most innovative companies puts forward an all-encompassing vision for reconfigurable architecture and circular design. The Italian Pavilion project features a multimedia façade made with two million recycled plastic bottles, new types of building materials from algae and coffee grounds to orange peels and sand, including an advanced system for climate mitigation that constitutes an alternative to air conditioning.

A Volunteer Explaining Visitors

Founding Partner of CRA practice and Director of the MIT Senseable City Lab at the MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology Dr. Carlo Ratti revealed, “Our design for the Italian Pavilion deals with what I believe is architecture’s most important challenge today – advancing the double convergence between the natural and the artificial. It anticipates issues and suggests strategies that will be increasingly crucial for the future of our cities, as we address the consequences of the current climate crisis. The pavilion keeps mutating into different forms. It speaks about reconfigurability both in the long term, because of its circularity, and in the short term, thanks to its use of digital technologies.”

Curtain Façade made of Nautical Rope

The Italian Pavilion has been designed with no conventional walls. Instead, a curtain façade made of nautical rope incorporated with LEDs that are lit to transform the façade into a multimedia surface portraying the exhibition space. Using an equivalent of roughly two million bottles and form an intricate vertical meshwork that stretches almost 70 kilometers (43.45 miles) in length. The nautical ropes were produced in recycled plastic. When the Expo 2020 will close on the 31st of March 2022, they will be reused again, in accordance with the logic of the circular economy. The use of the nautical ropes and a localized cooling system integrated with misting allow for extensive shading, natural ventilation and better thermal comfort. The project strives to showcase more innovative and sustainable ways to cool our buildings and cities in the future.

Interior Pathway

The interior pathway includes an Innovation Space dedicated to technological research, the Second Sun and Second Moon digital installations by Enel X, which create a crescendo of light effects closely linked to the visitors’ emotions in real-time, and the Theatre of Memory with a 3D-printed copy of Michelangelo’s David developed by the Museum of the Galleria dell’Accademia of Florence and the Ministry of Culture in partnership with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Florence.

Dramatic Effects of Illuminated LEDs

Italo Rota Building Office founder Italo Rota enthused, “The Italian Pavilion has large dimensions and a very sophisticated structure. More than an architecture in the canonical sense, it is a large experimental installation focused on the increasingly blurred boundaries between the natural and the artificial. Its construction is equally inspired by natural biotypes and the most advanced technologies that come from space research. On the one hand, the building looks at the organization of tropical forests, where light filters through a high canopy and life is organized accordingly. On the other hand, a crucial theme is the production of ‘neo-materia’ – new construction materials that have an organic and biological origin, whose technological production is not to be mistaken with recycling. Since the pavilion was conceived in a circular way, one can think of this ‘neo-materia’ as materials that one can potentially be reused anywhere, in different forms and with different purposes. The Italian Pavilion represents almost a sort of ‘architectural banking’ – a catalog from which to choose the elements of future architecture.”

Innovation Par Excellence!

The Italian Pavilion has won the prize for the ‘Best Entrepreneurial Project of the Year’ at the prestigious Construction Innovation Awards that are given every year in the country hosting the Exposition. From the very beginning, the Italian Pavilion was hailed as one of the most recognizable designs at the Expo Dubai 2020. From October 2021 to March 2022, hundreds of arts and business events will be held at the Italian Pavilion.

Circular Approach

Developed in collaboration with Mapei – manufacturer of chemical products for the building industry, the rest of the Italian Pavilion includes materials that were chosen in line with the circular approach. Coffee and orange peels left to dry and reduced to powder, are used to coat the suspended pathways and walkways. The Italian Pavilion rests itself on a dune five meters above ground level, made out of locally sourced sand. The path inside the Italian Pavilion is enriched by a series of green elements from more than 160 different species that live inside the building. This natural landscape pays tribute to the biodiversity and ecological beauty of the Italian and Mediterranean territories, which was developed in collaboration with Italy’s CNR – National Research Council and botanist Flavio Pollano. Particular attention was given to the role that plants play in stopping desertification.

Elegance of Design

Architect Matteo Gatto expressed, “After the design of the Expo Milan site in 2015, it was very interesting for me to participate in the design of the National pavilion for Expo Dubai. Representing Italy is never easy, but I believe that the theme of travel and the technology that we developed to execute the concept, and then for the project itself, have managed to well represent the complexity of our country, which is rooted in its history and projected towards the future.”

Visitors at the Opening

F&M Ingegneria’s Founder Sandro Favero raved, “Supporting a roof made of three overturned hulls was a real structural challenge. F&M Ingegneria took great care of the structural and plant design, thereby proposing a functional integration between the two disciplines after a careful analysis of the main goals of the architectural project. Ensuring the comfort of the pavilion without affecting the overall aesthetics, this solution allowed us to optimize costs and construction work. The management of engineering work, entrusted to F&M, was particularly demanding in liaising with local companies and workers. It allowed us to achieve the set goal, ensuring compliance with delivery times.”

Image Courtesy: CRA – Carlo Ratti Associati

Photographer: Michele Nastasi

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