The UAE Pavilion at World EXPO Milano 2015 is receiving its final polishing touches prior to opening on Friday 1st May. Eighty Italian staff have received orientation and training in preparation for final dress rehearsals yesterday. The UAE's pavilion partners in the form of Expo 2020 Dubai, Emirates, Dubai World Trade Centre and Cultural Engineering, are also making fine adjustments to their bespoke areas of the building and there is a mounting sense of excitement as officials and supporting staff arrive in Milan, ready for the Pavilion to open to the public.
Ever since the first Great Fair of 1851, World Expos have developed to be one of the largest and most enduring global events. Organised by Bureau International des Expositions, BIE, and lasting for six months, World Expos attract millions of visitors who explore and discover pavilions, exhibits and cultural events staged by hundreds of participants, including states, international organisations and corporations. Most participants build their own pavilions on sites provided by the host country.
The UAE has made a strong mark at each Expo in which it has participated. It was among the top ten pavilions at EXPO 2000 in Hannover; was awarded a gold medal at EXPO Zaragoza 2008 (an International Expo); won a popular vote among the general public at the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010 (and came top in an academic study conducted by staff from UCLA who looked at public diplomacy criteria); and received a silver medal at the International Expo in Yeosu in 2012. The country is also participating enthusiastically in Expo Milano 2015.
The Pavilion For Expo Milano 2015, the UAE's National Media Council assembled a world-class team to deliver an unforgettable pavilion experience, not only producing a building design that ‘wows' visitors but also satisfies the requirement for the Pavilion to be taken down and re-built in the UAE. Its world-renowned architects, Foster + Partners, took their inspiration from the evocative landscape and sustainable traditional architecture of the UAE. This sustainability ethos is also reflected in Masdar City, the UAE's future energy complex, and it is in Masdar's sinuous narrow streets and fluid open spaces, intended as self-shaded pedestrian routes in a car-free city, that the UAE Pavilion will finally come to rest when Expo 2015 closes.
The extraordinary building has been compared to "the beautiful wrapping of an elegant parcel". It creates excitement and anticipation, but its developers state that what really matters is what is inside, a seamless, holistic and enchanting encounter with the UAE and its people.
The Story Food for Thought: Shaping and Sharing the Future Every World Expo has a theme that must be of ‘central concern to all humanity'. For Expo Milano 2015 this is: ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life'. Each pavilion is being asked to address the fundamental question that is so pertinent to our times: ‘In the future, will it be possible to ensure sufficient, good, healthy sustainable food for all mankind?' The UAE's story embraces the Expo 2015 theme of food, nutrition and sustainability in all its exciting and challenging facets, using its own experiences of living in a dynamic country with a rapidly increasing population, a shortage of arable land, and where water is now more important than oil. The UAE presentation explores the interplay between land, energy and water in producing sufficient, safe food, as well as age-old traditional Emirati values of sustainability and sharing that are motivating the country's search for innovative solutions. A key message is that UAE's story today may be that of other nations tomorrow since many parts of the world will be experiencing the same difficulties as the UAE is encountering, due to spiralling demand and the effects of climate change. By forming creative partnerships and sharing knowledge and resources, the United Arab Emirates is helping to shape a sustainable global future.
The Journey Traditional culture, the welcoming warmth of Emiratis, the taste, aroma and conviviality of food, as well as a spectacular media-rich immersive environment, take visitors on a journey through the Pavilion that is sensory, fun, emotional, challenging, educational and thought provoking.
Imposing 12-metre-high walls form a striking and enticing entrance to the Pavilion. Inspired by beautiful curvilinear sand dunes and echoing the narrow self-shaded streets of ancient settlements in the region, the walls enclose a winding ramp that leads through an atmospheric valley towards a golden drum. But this is not just an experiential space, along the way intriguing media and Emirati ambassadors reveal magical stories about the UAE, its landscape and people, its food culture and the relationship of land, energy and water in producing food.
A cinematic experience follows in the circular Palm Cinema, the Pavilion's beating heart. Here a short film, ‘Family Tree', follows a young girl, Sara, as she learns that the values and experiences of past generations can help in our quest for a sustainable future. The mini-drama highlights the scarcity of water and celebrates the role of the date palm in sustaining life in the Emirates during difficult times. This very special tree provides a window to traditional life in the 1960s and reveals the astonishing development that has taken place in the UAE in a little over 40 years.
As the film comes to a close, visitors are drawn towards an interactive theatrical space and a remarkable presentation: ‘Future Talk' employs a wide range of media techniques to keep visitors engaged and enthralled. Sara enlists the help of her family and the audience to finish her school project. She pulls together all the threads of the story, ultimately inspiring visitors to make the necessary commitment to change in their daily lives that will help to achieve a shared ambition of feeding the planet.
Emerging down a ramp, the audience continues its journey with a visit to ‘The Secret Life of Date Palms' a cultural exhibition featuring the date palm that uses the past to imagine the future; a relaxing Oasis garden, complete with palm trees; the Expo 2020 Dubai arena, highlighting all that the next World Expo will offer in Dubai in 2020; and Future Business UAE, a commercial exhibition connected to the EXPO theme.