Architecture – Es Devlin and a multi-disciplinary team responded to Expo 2020 Dubai’s main theme – Connecting Minds Creating the Future – to design the UK Pavilion. Located in the Opportunity District, the pavilion features a 20m-high cone structure made of cross-laminated timbers, which display a series of AI-generated poems. “The Pavilion showcases British innovations, from AI to space technology,” says Devlin.
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Protruding slats compose a circular facade displaying LED lights that reveal poems in English and Arabic created from words submitted by visitors through an online app and generated by an advanced machine learning algorithm. The algorithm was developed with the help of poetry experts and trained on 15,000 poems from over 100 British poets.
The immersive concept was inspired by the work of Professor Stephen Hawking and, in particular, his Breakthrough Message work. In 2015, an international team of scientists, including Hawking, created a message representative of humanity and planet Earth and delivered it into outer space in search of extraterrestrial intelligence.
From here, Es Devlin, brand experience studio Avantgarde and their teams decided to create a collaborative design constantly composing collective poems. “Most pavilions of the past are beautiful structures, but you tend to go in, admire their architectural form and that’s it.” Says Stuart Bradbury, Avantgarde managing director. “In Dubai, we created an experience where the visitor is part of the pavilion – they contribute to creating something.”
The choral space at the core of the UK Pavilion resembles the chamber of a wooden musical instrument. Here, visitors can hear the bespoke soundscape created by diverse sounds crowdsourced from around the globe. “We worked with voices from all over the world to create a choral soundscape,” says Devlin to Archipanic. “We want to express a full, beautiful range and breadth and diversity of voices, every age, gender, ethnicity.”
“The pavilion is at once an expression of the ideal of a culturally diverse Britain that I grew up with, tempered with our growing awareness of the part algorithms play in shaping the future of our culture.” Says Es Devlin. “A sense of Britain as a place that’s open, welcoming, questioning, uncertain, contradictory, inconsistent, fallible, sometimes nonsensical, majestic, comical, beautiful, and accessible to all.”
Photography is by Ry Galloway and Alin Constantin, courtesy of Es Devlin.