Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Campus Germany aka the German pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, designed by LAVA and Facts and Fiction, is an impressive development where the architects have used visually exciting design elements everything from the intelligent use of local climatic conditions to materials reuse to connectedness is sustainable.
The Campus Germany has recently been awarded a 2022 International Architecture Awards Honorable Mention by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.
The key question was how to design a temporary exhibition and event space for up to three million visitors in a desert environment that was sustainable.
LAVA’s solution linked the Expo theme of connectedness, with our approach of “more with less,” with humans interacting with nature and technology at its heart,” said Tobias Wallisser, director of LAVA.
The building is considered an exhibit underlining social sustainability and as the architects explained “the building design is part of the exhibition, a tool to connect people.”
“We wanted to address the Expo motto ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ and so we chose to represent Germany as a ‘campus’, an open place for the exchange of knowledge, ideas, and innovations. Rather than placing the buildings horizontally across a site, three suspended cubes are assembled vertically. This loose, porous stacking of volumes, an ensemble rather than a single form, suggests interconnectedness,” says Christian Tschersich, project director of LAVA.
The positioning of the cantilevered cubes generates a spacious central atrium for gathering, performances, and events.
At the heart of the visitor experience, this covered vertical space visually connects all functional areas with one another, helps with way-finding, creates diverse visual relationships and access points, and assists with the management of large visitor numbers.
The visitor route brings people continuously onto terraces (on top of the cubed spaces). They see their past and future trajectory, engage with other people and enjoy vistas out to the Expo site.
The exhibition spaces, designed by facts and fiction, (Energy Lab, Future City Lab, and Biodiversity Lab) feature individual immersive experiences inside the cubes, whilst terrace exhibitions invite group interaction.
Rather than a traditional exhibition hall, the campus metaphor sees the whole building as an exhibit, not merely a canvas to display, but a tool for connecting people and content, and a place to experience German innovations.
The actual structure is the message.
“We incorporated the principle of sustainability right from the start by using the minimum amount of material to create maximum volume. LAVA’s ‘more with less’,” claims Tschersich.
Three cubes were stacked on top of a plinth with other functions (restaurant, pre-show, office, back-of-house) formed as an abstract landscape.
This created a large volume at the center, and a roof creates shade and comfort – a technical cloud.
A sandwich of three parts: landscape – stacked cubes – roof. People between nature and technology.
The clever positioning of the stacked cubes is driven by local climate and features passive energy-saving features that reduce the impact of direct sunlight, generate natural shade, decrease the heat load and optimize the indoor climate.
This intelligent creation of shade by the building elements also makes “hybrid” air conditioning possible.
It also references the design of the local courtyard house, with closed exterior facades and rooms oriented towards inner airspace that open up to each other.
A hybrid façade minimizes the sense of building bulk and creates an iconic framing of the space.
At the upper level a dynamic arrangement of 900 vertical steel poles, a forest of trees swaying in the wind, creates movement.
With gradually changing angles they frame the central atrium space and modulate light.
An opaque, trapezoidal single-layer ETFE membrane can be opened and closed, responsive to different weather conditions during the six-month Expo period, such as sandstorms and cooler days, and minimizes the need for air conditioning.
The pavilion’s outer shell also includes 1.5 meters-wide glass elements that can be rotated and opened, allowing the building to breathe.
The visually striking technical cloud roof creates shade and comfort. It allows daylight into the interior through multiple small openings, similar to sunlight penetrating a forest canopy, creating an ever-changing visitor experience.
Mirror surfaces reflect direct sunlight against the roof skin, a dynamic interplay of light. At night, a field of LED lights integrated with the ceiling makes the building radiate from within.
Resource consumption and the circular economy were also major design drivers and are reflected in numerous passive and active sustainability features – from Design for Disassembly (DfD) to “Mine the Scrap”, “grey energy”, sustainable and reusable building materials.
95% of the building will be repurposed after the Expo is finished, with standardized building elements such as steel poles dismantled and reconfigured into different geometries.
LAVA’s bottom-up approach focussed on visitor comfort, and technology in the service of humans.
“At LAVA we’re always looking at the interaction between people and the physical environment they inhabit. Sustainability requires that environments are adaptable and changeable,” adds Wallisser.
The transition from hot exterior to inside was carefully considered. To reduce temperature shock and save on energy costs the architects designed a transitional space where visitors entering the building, with lengthy queues, are cooled by a gentle water mist emanating from steel poles allowing them to gradually acclimatize.
The central atrium is cooled by cold air expelled from the air-conditioned exhibition spaces, thereby reducing energy usage and improving visitor comfort.
“An efficiently stacked volume of space, responding to the local environment with an intelligent climate management system. This project shows how buildings can be optimized, made intelligent, be reconfigured, can adapt to changing users, environments, temperatures, acoustics, and light,” explains Alexander Rieck, director of LAVA.
Chris Bosse, LAVA Director, adds: “Functional requirements, visitor experience, climate, and environmental concerns are all resolved through this clever multi-performative design.”
The concept continues pavilion design innovations, from London’s Crystal Palace to Mies van der Rohe’s German Pavilion at Expo ’29 in Barcelona and Frei Otto at Montreal’s Expo ’67.
The German Pavilion also houses a three-level restaurant, VIP spaces for business meetings, and workspaces for staff.
It is located in the sustainability section, close to Al Wasl Plaza, which forms the heart of the Expo site.
The pavilion is a place of knowledge, research, and exchange in accordance with the motto of Expo 2020 Dubai: “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”.
Visitors are taken on an interactive journey from “enrolment” in the pavilion to the “graduation ceremony” at the end of the tour. They actively participate and experience being part of a community that is committed to a more sustainable future.
The visitor starts the experience even before they enter the pavilion. Here, the federal states are presented in the form of audio stations, virtual reality applications, interactive tables and films.
Next, pavilion staff “enrol” visitors and provide them with their own name tags.
Integrated into the name tag is the innovative IAMU system: The Realtime Locating System (RTLS) turns Campus Germany into an intelligent, interactive exhibition space.
Among others, IAMU automatically starts media content in the language of the respective guest.
In addition, visitors are invited at several points to contribute their opinion by voting. After an introduction event, a ball pool follows. Each of the 100,000 balls contains a fact about sustainability in and from Germany.
The Energy Lab, the Future City Lab, and the Biodiversity Lab, represent the actual “curriculum” of the Campus and feature more than 50 interactive exhibits. They each showcase an innovative and sustainable idea from Germany, the implementation of which is brought closer to the visitors in a playful way.
Each of the labs also has its own design idea. Closed, immersive spaces characterized by a high degree of diversity, alternate with open terraces that offer a view across the atrium.
Finally, in the “Graduation Hall”, visitors experience a surprising and emotional performance in which the combination of technology, community, and the idea of sustainability reaches its climax. Visitors take their seats on swings in an impressive show and start moving together for a more sustainable future.
Project: Campus Germany – German Pavilion Expo 2020 Dubai
Architects: LAVA – Laboratory for Visionary Architecture
Lead Architects: Tobias Wallisser and Christian Tschersich
Associate Architects: Facts and Fiction
Lead Architects: Dietmar Jähn and Andreas Horbelt
General Contractor: Nüssli Group
Client: Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, Federal Republic of Germany
Photographers: Taufik Kenan, Roland Halbe, and Andreas Keller