Carlo Ratti Associatti’s Italian Pavilion is one of several architectural installations at Expo 2020 Dubai. Another high-profile contribution comes from British firm Foster + Partners. Named Alif, it features a stunning exterior design that helps keep it shaded from the searing sun. As well as a number of exhibitions, the interior also hosts what the organizers describe as the world’s largest passenger elevator.
Alif is named after the first letter of the Arabic alphabet and occupies a plaza at Expo 2020 Dubai that’s surrounded by extensive landscaping. It’s one of the expo’s three signature pavilions and is being used to hold talks and exhibitions centered around the theme of mobility. Once the expo comes to a close in March 2022, it will remain in place and form part of a new district.
The building takes the overall form of three petals and is defined by horizontal stainless steel fins that are inspired by both airplane wings and chrome fenders. As well as lending the pavillion such a striking look, they also serve the practical purpose of reflecting Dubai’s intense Sun and shading its glazing to reduce solar heat gain.
The fins are sculpted to form a canopy for each of the three entrances, from which visitors enter directly into the central area. This features what the organizers refer to as the world’s largest passenger elevator (unfortunately no photos are available as of writing), which can accommodate over 160 people at once – though COVID-19 restrictions will see it operating at less than capacity during the expo.
The elevator deposits visitors on the third floor, from where they then walk down through successive galleries. Highlights include Dubai settlements from 4,500 years ago, 9th century Baghdad, and the various achievements of Arab civilization, plus the future of space travel. Elsewhere in the pavilion, a partly underground, partly open-air track showcases cutting-edge mobility devices in action, along with tech focused on improving the quality of life for people in developing countries, such as solar-powered tricycles.
Alif is slated to receive the LEED Gold green building standard due to its energy efficient design. In addition to its shading facade, its roof is home to solar panels, which reduce its draw on the grid, while solar thermal panels produce hot water.
Source: Foster + Partners
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