UK pavilion to unite poetry with technology

21 January 2019
  • Es Devlin

Es Devlin/Veretec



United Arab Emirates

Es Devlin creates interactive exhibit for Expo 2020

Early in 2018, the Department for International Trade ran a competition to find designs for the UK pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020, with the brief calling for a concept that would combine both modernity and heritage. Award-winning British artist, Es Devlin OBE was selected as the winner, together with fellow team members Veretec Architects, brand experience agency Avantgarde, structural engineer Atelier One, sustainability engineer Atelier Ten, and construction consultancy Jackson Coles.
On revealing the result, International Trade Secretary, Dr Liam Fox MP said: “This announcement follows a competitive tender process which saw a number of leading designers and firms form consortia to bid for the multi-million-pound contract, and we are grateful for their submissions.” The original design competition notice can be viewed on TenderStream here

Es Devlin is known for creating large-scale installations that fuse technology and poetry, including the interactive Fifth Lion sculpture installed in Trafalgar Square. The UK pavilion design follows this approach, featuring illuminated messages created by Expo 2020 visitors. The 20-metre high, cone-shaped structure is composed of cross-laminated timber blades, set out radially to create a slanting circular façade. Expo visitors will be invited to suggest words, which will be processed through algorithms to create poetry displayed by an array of LEDs. 

On entering, an illuminated maze features augmented reality-enriched exhibits of British advances in artificial intelligence and space exploration. The maze leads to a central interior space that replicates the resonating chamber of a wooden musical instrument, filled with a collective choral soundtrack. 

Explaining the inspiration for the design, Es Devlin stated: “The idea draws directly on one of Stephen Hawking’s final projects, ‘Breakthrough Message’, a global competition that Hawking and his colleagues conceived in 2015 inviting people worldwide to consider what message we would communicate to express ourselves as a planet, should we one day encounter other advanced civilisations in Space. What if the UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 became a place where visitors from all over the world chose to take part in a collective global project that showcases British expertise in AI technologies and poetry, while transcending national identities?”

Lucy Nordberg
TenderStream Head of Research

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