The pavilion of the ecological exhibition of Italy is made from orange peels and coffee grounds


With three full-size, seaworthy boat hulls as a roof and a nautical rope facade made from recycled plastic, the Italy pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020 embraces the concept of reusable design.

Favored by an excellent location within the Expo site – between the thematic areas ‘Opportunity’ and ‘Sustainability’ and with uninterrupted front and side views – the pavilion attracted a fifth of all visitors to the event during the opening weeks, making it one of the most successful.

“The biggest inspiration behind our design is the circular economy,” said architect Italo Rota, referring to the idea of ​​recycling, repairing and reusing waste, rather than just throwing it away.

Rota is one of the designers of the pavilion and has worked extensively in Paris where he organized the lighting of Notre-Dame Cathedral and the banks of the Seine. “Nautical ropes themselves are one example (the circular economy): they were produced by recycling 2 million plastic bottles, and when combined they reach a length of 70 kilometers (43 miles). These are already planned for further. recycling after the Expo. “

Reducing the amount of waste at the end of the event was also a priority for co-designer Carlo Ratti, architect and engineer who teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “One thing I don’t like about temporary events, like various international exhibitions or the Olympics, is that a huge amount of garbage ends up in landfills after a few weeks or months. This is why we wanted the Italian pavilion to address the temporary nature of the Dubai Expo 2020. Most of the architectural elements are recycled or recyclable, reused or reusable. “

Rota and Ratti both have previous experience of world exhibitions, having worked on projects for the last edition, which was held in Milan in 2015. The current exhibition, the opening of which was postponed last year in due to the pandemic and therefore retains its nickname “2020”, will remain open in Dubai until the end of March 2022.

The pavilion incorporates a reusable design into its structure – via the use of organic elements such as orange peel and coffee grounds in building materials – and has a natural climate mitigation system that uses shading, misting and ventilation to replace air conditioning. There are no conventional walls, the nautical ropes demarcating the exhibition space instead, and also functioning as a multimedia surface through the use of LEDs that light up to display different colors and images.

The Italian pavilion features a nautical ropes facade, made from 2 million recycled plastic bottles. Credit: Michele Nastasi

After entering, visitors find themselves on a walkway 36 feet (11 meters) above ground level and just below the first hull.

Among the attractions are the “Belvedere”, a dome-shaped structure covered with Mediterranean wild grasses and intended to evoke Renaissance gardens, and a 3D printed replica of the famous statue of David by Michelangelo, made from detailed scans of the 16th century original in Florence. The 17-foot figure spans two stories, and its lower half is enclosed in a rotunda, which limits its view somewhat in favor of its head and upper torso. “We find it a stimulating idea for visitors to look at the David not only from the bottom up, as is the case with the original in Florence, but directly into his eyes,” says Ratti.
The 3D printed replica of Michelangelo's David.

The 3D printed replica of Michelangelo’s David. Credit: GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP / AFP via Getty Images

In the spirit of experimenting with different ways of bringing the natural and man-made worlds closer together, the structure rests on a 16-foot-high dune, made of locally sourced sand. The paths and walkways inside are adorned with 160 botanical species, a project jointly developed with botanists from the Italian National Research Council.

The boat hulls that form the roof were built by Fincantieri, one of Europe’s largest shipbuilders, and it is possible that they could eventually be turned into working boats, Ratti explains.

However, discussions are underway on the transformation of the pavilion into a design center at the end of the World Expo. “So the hulls of the boats could become victims of their own success,” says Ratti, “and it might take longer before they set sail.”

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