Dubai: At Expo 2020 Dubai, 38 cones of the Austrian pavilion stand tall above the crowd – their arresting white facade a stark contrast against the earthy tones of the interior. Green rolling hills and multi-coloured homes so characteristic of Austria somehow find representation in these minimalist cones: “It’s very important for us to participate in Expo 2020 Dubai because we want to present Austria in a new way and, maybe for some visitors, in a surprising way,” says Beatrix Karl, Commissioner General of the Austrian pavilion, in an interview with Gulf News on Sunday after a media brief on the country’s participation.
It’s very important for us to participate in Expo 2020 Dubai because we want to present Austria in a new way and, maybe for some visitors, in a surprising way.
Though the eco-friendly funnels, made of reed, clay and precast concrete elements, communicate a clear message of sustainability, the diverse Austrian programme resonates more with the subtheme of Opportunity at the world fair. “In the Opportunity [District], we can talk about sustainability, which is very dear to our hearts, and also about the other solutions that we have,” says Richard Bandera, Commercial Counsellor at the Austrian Embassy in the UAE. “It opens up more opportunities for us to present our companies.”
Natural ventilation saves 70 per cent energy
Cones ranging from 15 to six metres in height form the ceiling and walls of the pavilion. Natural light will flood the interior through truncated tips, whose varying sizes create a dynamic lighting effect for visitors. While some cones are topped off with dome latches, others are covered by a glass roof and a shading grid.
Vienna-based Querkraft Architekten designed a conical pavilion for more reasons than just lighting – the building is capable of saving 70 per cent of energy thanks to the traditional cooling system it employs. The white cones capture cool air at the ground level and allow warmer currents to escape from the top, a technology partly inspired by Arabian wind towers and Austria’s own climate engineering.
“We chose the colour white because it reflects the rays of the sun,” says Bandera, “and does not heat the pavilion as much as a dark [surface would].” The majority of the pavilion is an open space plan that forgoes air conditioning in favour of natural ventilation. “When you walk into the pavilion, you will immediately feel that there is an airflow, and since it’s shaded, it feels like being in a cave, very cosy.”
Reed, often spotted growing at the fringes of Austrian lakes, is the insulation material for the building covered in loam, which is a type of soil composed of clay, silt and sand used to keep the pavilion cool at night.
Discover Austria through all senses
Visitors begin their journey at the kiosk stationed in the welcome area, where they can try Austrian sweets in edible containers supplied by LeBurger, a Viennese burger franchise currently operating in Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates.
Upon entering, they will come across two permanent exhibitions that offer an immersive and sensory exploration of the Eastern Alpine country. “You will see, smell, hear Austria, and if you visit our coffeehouse, you can also taste Austria,” says Karl.
Curated by Ars Electronica Solutions and Buro Wien in collaboration with Vienna-based design studio Bleed, the exhibitions are a series of interactive installations that present information without the complexity of hard facts and figures, opting for the universal language of imagery and senses instead.
You will see, smell, hear Austria, and if you visit our coffeehouse, you can also taste Austria.
In an artistic landscape area dedicated to the Swiss pine, for instance, visitors will be able to smell the fragrance of the tree native to the Alps in central Europe. Another three cones a few steps ahead will contain a unique Austrian soundscape composed by Modling-born musician Rupert Huber – expect a snippet of Schubert’s Ninth Symphony fading in to the industrial sounds of a Danube power plant turbine, stitched with sounds from nature.
A lab of innovations, ideas and inspiration
Temporary exhibitions will showcase Austrian ingenuity within the iLab – a laboratory that will spotlight 53 innovations digitally and physically in two phases. Each phase will focus on four of the eight themes: smart city, circular economy, mobility, digital opportunities, water agriculture, new materials, health and life science, and digital security.
For free of charge, Austria will invite research institutes, universities and other organisations to present their solutions through workshops, lectures and experiments. Children can also dip their toes into coding at the iLab.
Aside from shedding light on the country’s innovation diversity, the pavilion has more than a 100 cultural events planned, including the Austrian national day celebrations on November 19, 2021. Commemorative visits from Alexander Van der Bellen, Austrian Federal President; Margarete Schrambock, Austrian Minister of Digital and Economic Affairs; and Harald Mahrer, President of the Austrian Economic Chamber, will mark the day.
Sip on Viennese coffee
The cultural experience ends with ‘Austrian Delight’, a Viennese coffeehouse that will serve visitors a taste of the Austrian capital’s centuries-old tradition. At the pavilion, leading Austrian coffee brand Julius Meinl will offer a freshly brewed cup coupled with desserts.
In a ‘kaffeehaus’, social boundaries blur and give way to relaxed gatherings, where people read, work, chat and play alongside a cup of coffee. Often referred to as the public’s living room, the Viennese coffeehouse earned a spot on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (Unesco) list of intangible cultural heritage in 2011.
An extension of Austria
Though it’s too early in the game to know of Austria’s concrete plans post-Expo, the architects made sure the pavilion could be relocated with ease. Bandera says that the elements can be taken apart and reconstructed just like the building blocks of Lego.
Austria may be in for a two-year retention after six months of Expo 2020 Dubai, but Bandera hopes the structure stays for longer in the region to commit to its core theme of sustainability.
We already have a very good touristic image in the region, but [Expo 2020 Dubai] will help to improve it further. Sustainability and opportunity play a big role in tourism. This is something you can see in the pavilion then experience it for yourself on a holiday in Austria.
“We already have a very good touristic image in the region, but [Expo 2020 Dubai] will help to improve it further,” says Robert Groblacher, Director of Austrian National Tourist Office in the Middle East and South East Asia. “Sustainability and opportunity play a big role in tourism. This is something you can see in the pavilion then experience it for yourself on a holiday in Austria.”
- The writer is an intern with Gulf News.