Visitors take a tour of France pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Time is non-linear inside the France Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.

To one side, there are authentic volumes of the nearly three-centuries-old Encyclopédie, and to the other, a prototype of what could be the future of air cargo. A common ground that tethers the many tendrils of time in the France Pavilion is mobility, something that Erik Linquier, Commissioner General of the France Pavilion, is extremely happy about.

“The key issue for people is soft and convenient mobility in smart cities; they shouldn’t have to spend hours in traffic jams,” he told Gulf News in an interview. “For example, you may know that the Metro line that goes to Expo was built and is being operated now by a French company [Thales].”

Erik Linquier, Commissioner General of France Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Sustainable and mobile

In the Mobility District, the country is still championing sustainability through its participation. About 2,500 square metres of sleek solar tiles by Akuo Energy on its façade and roof convert the UAE’s abundant sunshine into 70 per cent of energy for use.

And beyond the Expo run, the France Pavilion will be erected once again on native land, specifically Toulouse, for the French space agency CNES. Linquier hoped that the several shimmering lights on the pavilion exterior during the day and night would drive footfall to where France’s mobility is best represented.

Original Encyclopedia of Diderot and d'Alembert at the pavilion Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Time travel to experience the Notre Dame

Chew on this, for instance. A handheld gadget holds the key to the past, present and the future. There is the clanking of metals and the clopping of donkeys lugging wooden planks, all set against what appears to be the scaffolding of the renowned Notre Dame Cathedral in medieval Paris. What visitors see is the construction phase of the church in the year 1180 through a small interactive device called the HistoPad.

Guests visiting 'Notre-Damne de Paris, the Experience' by L'Oreal and Histovery exhibit at the pavilion Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Histovery’s augmented reality (AR) technology visualises the 850-year history of the monument, down to the minute details – this is result of a year-long research with the right experts, architects and historians of each era.

“I’m sure you know of Napoleon’s coronation at the Notre Dame – it’s a very famous painting. However, not many people know what was on the other side,” said Bruno de Sa Moreira, the CEO of Histovery, during an exclusive demonstration of the exhibit with Gulf News.

De Sa Moreira scans the year 1804, pasted on one of the six podiums, and swipes the screen around, which features the freshly crowned Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte I and his kneeling wife Josephine the Empress.

“The walls of the church took heavy damage during the French Revolution, so Napoleon had them covered with royal drapes,” he added, zooming into the grand hall and the arch behind, plunging the spectator right into the event.

France Pavilion, Expo 2020 Dubai Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Prepared in collaboration with L’Oréal, the ‘Notre Dame de Paris Experience’ is a limited-time exhibition, exclusive to the France Pavilion until November 1, 2021. This sneak peek of the futuristic museum will then go on to host a more scaled version in Paris, North America and other parts of Asia.

“There was not one country in the world that did not donate to rebuild the church after the recent fire. While it is being restored, we still want people to be able to visit it and even choose ‘when’,” said De Sa Moreira, who wants his technology to enhance art exhibits. “I wouldn’t say this is the future of museums but ‘a’ future, perhaps.”