Deconstruction of Netherlands pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai to start

On April 1, 2022 the 35th World Expo held in Dubai closed its doors. The fact that Expo 2020 Dubai is coming to an end does not automatically mean the end of the Netherlands pavilion. The closure of this Expo marks the start of the deconstruction of the pavilion and therefore the continuation of its circular concept.

Circular climate system
The Netherlands pavilion was designed by V8 Architects as a temporary circular climate system, a biotope in the desert, where visitors can experience natural phenomena such as condensation, solar energy, photosynthesis, fungus production and temperature transmission. The architecture is the physical representation of the Netherlands’ core message: connecting sustainable solutions in the areas of water, energy and food.

Circular construction
Due to the temporary nature of a world exhibition and the brief for a sustainable pavilion with a minimal footprint, the Netherlands pavilion was designed and built according to circular principles. A conscious decision was made to use as many reusable, recyclable and compostable materials as possible. For the construction of the pavilion, a radical construction method was applied by renting materials available in Dubai such as sheet piles and tubes, in fact also an ode to the Netherlands civil engineering expertise.

Because the Netherlands pavilion is a showcase for sustainability and circularity, V8 Architects integrated new biobased materials into the design. A curtain and canopy made from cornstarch that was converted into biopolymer textile fibers, for example, and floor and wall finishes made from mycelium. Biobased materials offer an alternative to current finishing materials in the building industry that are often polluting and not recyclable. By showing concrete applications that are both technically and aesthetically integrated into the design, V8 Architects inspires the building industry and architecture becomes a stage for innovations.

A second life
The entire pavilion is technically designed to be easily disassembled into usable elements that can easily be reused in the local civil and construction industry. The sheet piles and steel tubes of over 18 meters, play the leading role in this. Smaller finishing materials such as the mushroom farm silos will also be reused in future projects. The floors are built up with sand, gravel and stabilization mats that can be easily removed to serve as a new surface somewhere else in Dubai. The excavated sand from the plot was used to insulate the walls of the pavilion and to level the floors.

All installations, lighting and even the elevator have been leased and will be reused. The lighting fixtures and furniture will be donated to a charity organisation in Dubai to be used efficiently for the rest of their lifespan. Even the foundation of the pavilion was designed to be removed again. By basing the entire pavilion on steel plates instead of concrete, nothing will be left behind after the pavilion is dismantled. Only the desert sand that was already there when the plot was received in 2018.

Michiel Raaphorst, architect-director and co-founder V8 Architects: “The Netherlands Pavilion is our very first building that will be dismantled. And we are proud of that. Because recycling, repurposing and reusing the materials and equipment are the true proof of the circular concept.”

Not only the materials will get a second life through their reuse. Dutch innovative knowledge and the contributions to solutions for water, energy and food related issues have not gone unnoticed in the region. A local entrepreneur is taking over the ‘mushroom nursery’ and will continue the production of mushrooms and mycelium products in Dubai. For the organic solar panels and watermaker and the underlying technology, conversations are underway to look at possibilities for further implementation in the Gulf region.

Expo 2020 Dubai; a retrospect
The Netherlands pavilion is created in collaboration with consortium partners Expomobilia, Witteveen + Bos and Kossmanndejong, commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since its opening in October 2021, almost 1 million people have visited the pavilion, despite the corona measures in place at the time. The pavilion has won 10 awards:

  • ‘Best Architecture & Landscape Award’ – BIE Official Expo Participant Award
  • ‘Best Sustainability Innovation’ – UAE Innovates Award 2022
  • ‘Best Sustainable Initiative’ – International Business Excellence Awards 2021
  • ‘Overall winner’ – International Business Excellence Awards 2021
  • ‘Innovation & Sustainability’ – Architectural Digest Design Awards 2021
  • ARC21 Innovation Award (solar panels Marjan van Aubel in collaboration with V8 Architects)
  • ‘Sustainable Construction Project of the Year’ – Big 5 Impact Awards 2021
  • ‘Best Interpretation of the Theme’ – Exhibitor Magazine World Expo 2020 Dubai Awards
  • ‘Best Sustainable Design’ (runner up) – Exhibitor Magazine World Expo 2020 Dubai Awards
  • ‘Best Medium Size Pavilion’ (runner up) – Exhibitor Magazine World Expo 2020 Dubai Awards.

Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Liesje Schreinemacher: ‘With its focus on the themes of water, energy and food, the Netherlands was able to showcase some of its strengths at Expo 2020 Dubai. Thanks to our pavilion and the participating organisations and companies, we left a memorable impression on visitors and enhanced our trading position, particularly in the Gulf region.’