UAE Pavilion at Shanghai Expo 2010 by
Foster + Partners


Shanghai Expo 2010: here are some photos of the United Arab Emirates Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo 2010, designed by Foster + Partners.

The design of the pavilion is inspired by sand dunes and the desert landscape of the emirate,  and features undulating structures clad in a triangulated lattice of gold-coloured stainless steel panels.

A series of louvres feature on certain parts of the façade, admitting light into the interior space and illuminating the pavilion from within by night.

Read more about the Shanghai Expo 2010 in our special category.

Here's some more information from the architects:

UAE Pavilion Shanghai Expo 2010
Shanghai, China, 2008-2010

Foster + Partners’ design for the UAE pavilion draws inspiration from a sand dune, a symbolic feature of the desert landscape shared by each of the seven emirates.

With capacity for 450 people and enclosing 3,000 square metres of exhibition space, the pavilion is one of the largest structures to be built for the 2010 Shanghai Expo.

Responding to the ‘Better Cities, Better Lives’ theme, the pavilion will showcase projects such as the Masdar Initiative, a new 6 million square metre carbon neutral zero waste community in Abu Dhabi, intended to become a centre for the development of new ideas for energy production.

The landscape and climate of the UAE are integral to Emirati culture.

Like a sand dune, the pavilion appears smooth on the side that bears the full force of the wind and rough and textured on the other side.

The northern elevation is more porous to admit natural light, while the southern elevation has a solid façade, to minimise solar gain.

A stainless steel skin, treated to appear golden, encloses the shimmering jewel-like shell.

The complex structure is a triangulated lattice of flat stainless steel panels, joined by adjustable nodes, which are designed to enable the pavilion to be demounted on site and constructed quickly and economically.

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The peak rises to 20 metres in height and it is entered via a glazed lip at the pavilion’s base.

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Light penetrates the building’s business centre and VIP area through glazed vertical strips, which illuminate the pavilion from within by night.

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Internally, the fit out by Ralph Applebaum Associates will offer an interactive experience, and a dynamic lighting design will reveal the exposed lattice shell of the structure.

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Client: UAE National Media Council
Co-architects: East China Architectural Design Institute

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Consultants: Halvorson and Partners, Davis Langdon, Piers Heath Associates, Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Claude Engle Lighting Consultant

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See also:


Netherlands Pavilion by
John Kormeling
Danish Pavilion by
All our stories on
Shanghai Expo 2010

Posted on Saturday May 15th 2010 at 12:46 am by Catherine Warmann. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Derek

    hmmmmmmm….someone obviously learned grasshopper at Foster + Partners

  • That aerial night picture looks like photoshopped. Why? The idea of ‘illuminated from within at night’ didn’t work?

    • Jon

      It IS computer generated

  • harem_deli9t

    All about the external form making, so typical of Foster. What about the interior spatial concept ?

  • chris@usyd

    Few humble thoughts of mine about this pavilion. I couldn’t help but wonder if materiality of its surfaces could have been altered, to give off more soft and grainy impression one gets from a sand dune. I mean, you can see how that beautiful rendering in the post can conjure a false image of what the building is actually going to look like, it looks so much more dull and mundane once you actually arrive in front of it.

    And about the ‘porous’ elevation that lets natural lighting…I don’t know what they mean by that, because as far as our journey inside the pavilion goes, they were all consisted of dark, enclosed, cinematic spaces that utilised artificial lighting inside darkness to create the atmosphere. French pavilion on the other hand, is a great example of using ‘walls’ that you can slide around to control the amount of natural lighting into the space, which engages the visitors to try out these sliding ‘walls’ and rethink about way of living. It’s a great shame really, since when I first read about the metaphor of sand dune and how the building mimics its environmental character, I thought it was a stroke of genius.

    Though I have to give credit for the programming inside the pavilion. Once you do enter it, the movie, installation works, atmosphere, the ‘journey’, is very well-thought out, and the visitors even gave applause during the short movie. It really demonstrated the pride and wealth of what UAE has to offer, and one can’t help but get positive impression of the country they never heard of (I think most visitors i.e. Chinese, never heard of UAE before).

    And this is something I found interesting, but while I was doing few sketches of the building, I noticed that there was a pathway for water to flow on the roof, down to the waterway that defines the perimeter of the pavilion (and our long waiting line). I had a talk with one of the people in charge of the building, who said (in regret) that it never helped, I had an impression that he didn’t like Foster’s work when I mentioned his name.

  • Ilian

    I think I’m close to cracking the metaphor here….a little too esoteric for my tastes

  • jeanpierre

    from rendering to reality : no building is glowing by itself because diffuse glow doesn’t exist in real life.

  • Good, strong concept however it solely relates to the external envelope. More information and visuals of the interior spaces and atmosphere would be appreciated.

  • Zaedrus

    I really want to see the louvers open and close like gills – responding to the different light conditions and levels of the passing day. That would be hot. HOT! As it is, very appealing.

  • davidLBC

    It’s the Legion of Doom

  • armeyn

    why it looks like ‘big bra’ for me?
    hehehe.., kidding!

  • matt

    looks like someone google imaged uae and ran with it… to a nasty place.

  • Max

    Interior pics please! Or maybe they didn’t think it was worth going in…

  • shahad

    The pavilion has a very strong concept reflecting the UAE environment and culture, yet I wonder if this is also reflected inside not just the exterior form as all the pictures here illustrate its exterior magnificence.

    What makes this pavilion interesting is that it’s the only national pavilion from the event that is being relocated and reconstructed for future use back in the capital of UAE, Abu Dhabi, so hopefully I will find out for myself whether the concept is reflected on the interior or not.