The Design of the Spanish Pavilion for Expo Dubai 2020/2021 – Onionlab

The Design of the Spanish Pavilion for Expo Dubai 2020/2021

Onionlab and External Reference are designing, for the Acción Cultural Española, the exhibition journey of the Spanish Pavilion at Expo Dubai 2020 / 2021, dedicated to sustainability and collective intelligence.

At Onionlab we are developing, together with the External Reference Architecture studio, and for Acción Cultural Española, the design of the exhibition journey of the Spanish Pavilion at the Dubai Universal Exhibition 2020 / 2021. Among other things, Onionlab shares the conceptual direction and is in charge of the content direction, and direction of the audiovisual and interactive content of the exhibition areas of the pavilion, which in this edition, focuses on connecting minds, building the future and sustainability of the planet.

Under the motto “Intelligence for life”, we are to seek to raise awareness about the wealth of the Spanish legacy, science, biodiversity and, in particular, sustainable practices and business initiatives focused on innovations in sustainability and circular economy. In this sense, the immersive experience led by Onionlab and External Reference is to offer an unbeatable showcase to highlight the importance of Spain in these areas.

The Spanish Pavilion, designed by the architecture studio Amman, Cánovas & Maruri (Extreme Temperatures), consists of a large square covered by a structure formed by a series of truncated cones —which function is to modulate the temperature of the public space — of which, two independent conical volumes house two floors — one of them underground — that make up the pavilion itself. The set, of great iconic strength, has been conceived under sustainability criteria; from the idea of ​​total recycling of materials to the possibility of raising a second life for the site or any of its parts.

The exhibition journey will run through these floors, where various means and techniques will be used: the scenographic design seeks at all times the participation and immersion of the visitors, whether through projection mapping, models, infographics, animated graphics, audiovisual pieces or through interactive screens and installations, holograms, installations with LED strips, backlit murals and all kinds of informative technological elements. All this is underpinned by an interactive and interdisciplinary mobile app that visitors can download. The app was designed to attract visitor’s attention with thrilling and didactic experience.

Among other things, the app will have an augmented reality section that will be applied to different spaces, such as Exploring Intelligence section, where reference is made to Ramón y Cajal’s studies, or the Intelligence Forest section, where you can discover protected animals in Spain such as the Iberian lynx, the bearded vulture, the brown bear or the Mediterranean turtle.

On the upper floor, a tour with some Spanish cultural landmarks will be presented to the visitors, from the Spanish-Arabic legacy of chess, Spanish overseas expeditions and the importance of Spanish as a global language, to the heritage of Arab architecture in Spain or the pioneering work of the neurologist Ramón y Cajal.

Among the most prominent spaces, it is especially worth mentioning, both for the deployment of media – interactive floors that will react to the movements of visitors, trees created with 3D printers, recyclable, absorbing CO2, and huge backlit murals in the background, which will widen up the space, audiovisual pieces — as per the central place of its content within the exhibition — sustainability — the immersive installation of the Bosque de la Inteligencia.

The Bosque —an artificial forest built with sustainable materials— is a metaphorical space that will react to the attitudes of microcosm of the global society formed by visitors of the pavilion through a series of interactive resources that will engage visitors with their preservation. Although the visitors will perceive it as a continuous space, it will actually bring together three areas that orbit the progress of Spain towards the preservation of its privileged biodiversity, the balanced use of its resources and collective intelligence, with special emphasis on companies and start-ups that stand out in these areas and also seeking to promote the Spain brand and, indirectly, promote tourism in rural and coastal areas.

At the final section of the Bosque, we will find the Tree of Balance: it is an interactive heart of the exhibition, a tree that will be projected over the entire rear wall of the pavilion and that will collect all visitors’ interactions with the forest. From a series of questions about their consumption habits, which visitors can answer through the app or a battery of 30 interactive screens, the tree will react positively or negatively to their responses, releasing a blue or red drop depending on the answer. The total of all drops will determine if the tree becomes greener and leafy or loses its foliage and dry out and will confront the visitors with their sustainability habits.

Upon arriving at the exit ramp, after a tour in which everything has been designed to provide the visitor with an immersive, didactic and participatory experience, the quality of life of the inhabitants of Spain will be valued by using of portraits of Spaniards represented in a very unique way, along with headlines with content related to education, talent or longevity.

At last, an audiovisual piece will explain the innovative sustainability practices applied in the various construction processes of the pavilion and its different components.

All in all, it is a playful and educational journey that seeks to make the visitors aware of the importance of meeting current needs without compromising the needs of future generations.