With the opening of Dubai Expo 2020 quickly approaching on October 1, the pavilion designs from the majority of the countries represented have long been known and publicized. Qatar, a small but wealthy country on the Persian Gulf with fewer than 3 million residents, is therefore among the last to unveil its pavilion for the six month event.
The sweeping, billowy white Qatar Pavilion, is designed by Santiago Calatrava, the famed Spanish architect behind the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Turning Torso tower in Malmö, Sweden, and the World Trade Center Transportation Hub in New York City. In developing a building that would represent the culture of Qatar, Calatrava sought to spatialize the four elements represented on the country’s coat of arms — two crossing swords, an island and a sailboat, known regionally as a dhow—in an overall curvilinear design rendered in white that recalls the sails of passing ships.
“Inspiration is derived from Qatar’s national emblem to truly capture the essence and vision of the nation,” said Micael Calatrava, CEO of Calatrava International, in a press statement. “The sculptural monument at the entrance of the Pavilion represents an abstract translation and fusion of two intertwined Palm trees, while the reflective pools and integrated water features surrounding the Pavilion represent the Arabian Gulf which encompasses the nation of Qatar.”
The dramatic facade will be primarily composed of KRION, a synthetic material composed of two-thirds natural minerals (ATH – Alumina Trihydrate) and a low percentage of high-resistance resins. Just beyond the building’s entrance will be an immersive educational space that will provide the viewer with a sense of the past and present accomplishments of Qatar, as well as the country’s aspirations for the near future, before sending visitors to its two main galleries and exhibition spaces. Set to be complete prior to the Expo’s opening in October, the pavilion is currently under an expedited construction schedule of five months through a collaboration between the Santiago Calatrava project team, Dubai-based main contractor ALEC, and Aurecon, the project’s engineer of record.
The Qatar Pavilion is Calatrava’s second commission on the grounds of the Dubai Expo, alongside the firm’s much larger design for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Pavilion near the center of the site. Like the Qatar pavilion, the UAE pavilion is allegorically shaped by the culture of the region it represents. Its exterior recalls the open wings of a falcon, the bird of choice for His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the region.