Dubai Expo 2020 Qatar Pavilion

Santiago Calatrava unveils Qatar Pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020

Swiss-Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava has designed a curved structure that pays homage to Qatar's coat of arms for the country's pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Calatrava's Qatar Pavilion opens today with the rest of Expo 2020 Dubai, which was rescheduled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and will now take place until March 2022.

Pavilion by Santiago Calatrava
The Qatar Pavilion is informed by the country's coat of arms

Representing Qatar at the international event, the pavilion was informed by the country's national emblem adopted in 1976.

Qatar's coat of arms includes two curved and crossed swords, illustrated to look as if they are holding a patch of seawater, on which a traditional dhow boat and an island with palm trees are positioned.

Gallery inside the pavilion
Neutral colours are used for the pavilion's interiors

According to the architect, the sweeping shape of Qatar's pavilion echoes the essence of this insignia, through a design that exudes "movement, mobility, strength and tradition."

"The Qatar Pavilion pays tribute to the country's coat of arms, which is rooted in its rich history and cultural heritage," said Calatrava, who heads his eponymous practice.

"Each element informed the curvilinear design of the pavilion which evokes the image of sails on passing ships," Calatrava's office told Dezeen.

"The structure’s surroundings tell as much of a story as the building itself. The entrance to the pavilion is marked by a sculptural monument that represents two intertwined palm trees and is surrounded by water features that serve as an homage to the Arabian Gulf which encompasses the nation of Qatar."

Gold-coloured structure on the Qatar Pavilion
A gold-coloured structure represents palm trees

The pavilion's curved structure is the same neutral colour as a lower building that intersects it, with both volumes encompassing 960 square metres.

Nearby, a gold-coloured structure intends to echo the palm trees on Qatar's coat of arms, while the pavilion's soaring angles reference the curved form of the dhow.

"The pavilion’s design emulates a modern interpretation of Qatar’s progressive outlook of the future and history," the studio said. "We hope visitors will walk away truly understanding the essence of Qatar."

Inside, two main galleries and exhibition spaces aim to provide an immersive and experiential education on the history of Qatar, along with sections that focus on the country's present and future.

"The project draws inspiration from the urban fabric from which it rises, to serve as an extension of the country," added Santiago Calatrava CEO, Micael Calatrava.

Gallery space inside
Galleries inside the pavilion provide information on Qatar's rich history

Though Santiago Calatrava isn't a Qatari studio, it feels "part of the nation," it added.

"We have a team on the ground in UAE, run by Micael Calatrava (Santiago Calatrava’s son)," the studio said. "The Calatrava International office was settled in Doha, Qatar, before relocating to Dubai many years ago, so we are very much a part of the nation and understand it on a deep level."

"Aside from that, our firm process always includes immersing ourselves in the region’s built environment before designing a structure."

The Dubai Expo is the latest World Expo – an international exhibition designed to showcase architecture and innovation. The six-month event will see contributions from 180 countries, including pavilions from the UK and the Netherlands.

The photography is courtesy of Santiago Calatrava.


Expo 2020 Dubai will run from 1 October 2021 – 31 March 2022. See Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events taking place around the world.

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Qatar Pavilion
Qatar Pavilion