Dubai: Under the Dubai sun, the 2,100-metre-square Luxembourg Pavilion wraps itself in a wide white band of steel, shading visitors dynamically and with purpose. “The form of the pavilion tells people visually that [Luxembourg] is interested in circular economy,” says Maggy Nagel, the Commissioner General of the Luxembourg Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, in an interview with Gulf News. True to the country’s vision, the pavilion will live on as part of smart city District 2020 for at least four to -five years post the event.
The form of the pavilion tells people visually that [Luxembourg] is interested in circular economy.
The awning structure sits facing the Dubai Exhibition Centre (DEC) – the fair’s very own 45,000-metre-square venue for events. Luxembourg is among the few national pavilions that is easily accessible from the main gate’s welcome plaza, becoming visitors’ first introduction to the Opportunity District: “To show the complete picture of Luxembourg, we chose Opportunity,” says Nagel, adding that the thematic district, which focuses on unlocking potential, is also inclusive of sustainability as seen in Luxembourg’s pavilion under the theme of 'Resourceful Luxembourg'.
Recyclable Mobius strip
Modelled after the mathematical properties of a Mobius strip, a one-sided ribbon that becomes an infinite loop when twisted, the pavilion facade represents the European country’s commitment to tirelessly reinvent itself by taking on new challenges.
“The Mobius strip resounds very well with circularity – it [represents] the idea that we need to be more mindful of our resources,” says Franz Fayot, Luxembourg's Minister of Economy and Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs. “We are facing resource scarcity in Europe right now, and we need to find ways of reusing our resources in a much more responsible way – that is what we’re showcasing here through the Mobius band but also through the materials we have used in the pavilion.”
We are facing resource scarcity in Europe right now, and we need to find ways of reusing our resources in a much more responsible way – that is what we’re showcasing here through the Mobius band but also through the materials we have used in the pavilion.
Designed by architecture studio Metaform, the three-storey building shields visitors using a loopy canopy that is the floor, walls and ceiling all at once. ArcelorMittal, the steel supplier for Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, sourced its raw material by melting 170 tonnes of recycled scraps in the Luxembourgish mills of Belval and Differdange. The fluid form of the facade is then held by steel pipes that form nearly 1,000 joints, with every single link bending at a different angle than the next.
A five-step winding exhibition
Designed for a top-to-bottom flow of movement, the pavilion features an ascending ramp that begins at the foot of the entrance and connects visitors to all three floors. Along the winding path, Luxembourg will unravel its five facets through innovative scenography as displayed on the inner walls.
In here, the main exhibition will open with 'Diverse', a section that dives into the multicultural fabric of the nation and its place in the borderless zone of Schengen, where 26 European countries operate under one common visa.
Visitors will then move on to 'Connecting', where Luxembourg's digital technologies will be given a platform: “Connectivity is a big part of our digital strategy – we have decided to go much more digital and much more green, so this dual transition is at the heart of everything we do,” adds Fayot.
Moving on to 'Sustainable', visitors will explore what it means for the country to go green in the realms of finance, disaster relief and social responsibility. In 2016, Luxembourg was the first country in the world to launch a platform called the Luxembourg Green Exchange (LGX) for sustainable securities that would contribute to financing a low-carbon economy.
Approaching the second floor is the penultimate exhibit, 'Enterprising', that will shed light on sustainable Luxembourgish firms such as ArcelorMittal, Guardian Glass and the space and terrestrial telecommunications provider SES. Before visitors can walk into the next exhibition, they have to pass through a cinema hall featuring a film on Luxembourg’s space industry.
Slide back to earth
Concluding the tour is an open-air atrium that explores the theme ‘Beauty of Luxembourg’. “When you come here (atrium), you come from the earth to the stars with the film, then you return to the woodlands of Luxembourg,” says Nagel.
And what better way to touchdown on earth than through a giant tube slide that runs from the top-most floor to the ground level – Luxembourg being the only pavilion on expo grounds to feature one. In the adventurous spirit of the country’s annual funfair, Schueberfouer, visitors can choose to descend via the winding slide over the other less dramatic option: the stairs.
The atrium brings with it a piece of Luxembourgish nature, specifically the rocky and green landscape of the Mullerthal region, whose beauty can be admired mid-ride. “We want the visitors to pass through our nature, to show [them] how green our country is,” adds Nagel, who says the experience goes as far as to evoke the sense of smell by perfuming the slide with scents of Luxembourgish woodlands.
Welcoming the visitors on earth will be the ‘Schengen Lounge’, an open-kitchen restaurant where foodies can dine in or order takeout meals in the ‘Luxembourg on a plate’ corner. A team of 36 students from the Luxembourg Hotel and Tourism School will bring the restaurant menu to life headed by KimKevin De Dood, a young Michelin-star chef.
When asked what would be on the menu, Nagel says that apart from serving visitors traditional Luxembourgish cuisine such as trout dishes and pastries, the cooks will prepare food influenced by international tastes to reflect the diversity of gastronomy in Luxembourg.
On Luxembourg’s future
Once the six-month world fair wraps up, Luxembourg will stay on. On May 31, it was announced that the country will gift its Expo 2020 Dubai pavilion to the UAE, a proposal that Nagel says Luxembourg was honoured to receive: “When you have worked several years on a project – and now we are one of the countries being proposed [by the Expo organisers] to stay.”
When you have worked several years on a project – and now we are one of the countries being proposed [by the Expo organisers] to stay.
“I’m very happy that this pavilion will be continued to be used after the lifespan of Expo [2020 Dubai] for at least four to five years because it is such a spectacular building,” adds Fayot, noting how it will become part of District 2020, a smart city of the future set to come into existence as part of the Expo’s physical legacy.
- The writer is an intern with Gulf News.