A “harvest machine” built with “reusable” and “bio-material”

The lead architect of the Expo 2020 Dubai's Netherlands Pavilion, David Spierings, speaks about the design and construction

“By the end of March, the entire shell and core of the Netherlands paviilion will be erected. Towards the end of July, the entire building should be finished”
[Image: Supplied]
“By the end of March, the entire shell and core of the Netherlands paviilion will be erected. Towards the end of July, the entire building should be finished”

The Netherlands Pavilion, which is located within the Sustainability District of the 4.38km2 Expo 2020 Dubai site, has revealed 50% completion of its total construction.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency – which is a government agency operating under the auspices of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy of the Netherlands – have awarded the design, construction, and dismantling works of the pavilion to a consortium following an official tender competition.

The consortium comprises the main architect for the pavilion, Netherlands-headquartered V8 Architects; the main contractor Expomobilia MCH Global; the experience architect Kossmann.dejong, which is responsible for the interactive visitor experiences; and Dutch engineering and consultancy firm Witteveen+Bos, which is the pavilion’s structural and MEP advisor.

In an exclusive conversation with Construction Week, the lead architect of the Netherlands Pavilion, and associate architect at V8 Architects, David Spierings, says: “The plot was handed over at the end of August 2019, and we started excavation in September. We are progressing according to the scheduled plan.”

“By the end of March, we will have the entire shell and core of the Netherlands pavilion erected. Towards the end of July, the entire building should be finished, and will be ready to have the exhibition and the AV equipment brought in. The Netherlands Pavilion is on track to have the pavilion completely ready well before the Expo 2020 Dubai begins in October,” he adds.

The concept of the pavilion is based on the theme “Uniting Water, Energy, and Food”, which was handed to the consortium by the government of the Netherlands.

Spierings says: “This theme is being brought to life by creating a climate system inside our pavilion. We, basically, are making a hall as big as possible on our plot. In that hall, there will be a big vertical cone that is fully covered with edible plants and irrigated with water that we harvest out of the air by using energy collected from the sun. Inside the cone itself, oyster mushrooms will be grown.”

The Netherlands pavilion, which is a temporary structure that will be dismantled after Expo 2020 Dubai wraps up in April 2021, has been constructed using locally sourced reusable and recyclable material, as well as cutting-edge bio-based materials.

“In order to be as sustainable as possible, we found a way to have a low footprint by making the most of Dutch expertise that uses steel sheet piles for construction,” he adds.

The sheet piles and steel tubes for the construction of the pavilion have been locally sourced from an Abu Dhabi-based firm.

“This is fantastic because after the 173-day event, these sheet piles can be taken apart and used again to make, for instance, a basement or a water blockade. The whole thought behind all the materials used in our pavilion is that it either has to be reusable, fully recyclable or bio-degradable. We like to think of our pavilion as a showcase of circularity.”

David Spierings, Associate Architect, V8 Architects [Photo courtesy: ©V8 Architects]

The pavilion, which covers a total built-up area of approximately 3,700m2, will also showcase a global first-of-its-kind curtain made out of bio-based polymers, with design and textiles supplied by Amsterdam-based Buro Belén. The pavilion will also have tiles made with mycelium – the vegetative part of a fungus, which once dried, makes up the basis of tiles.

The bio-based mycelium tiles and acoustic elements in the Netherlands pavilion will be supplied by Italian firm Mogu.

“These materials are not only completely bio-based, but are also a glimpse of the future of building material, which demonstrates where the industry needs to go in order to make the carbon footprint as low as possible,” Spierings says.

“In addition, the pavilion will be a “harvest machine” as it will harvest water from the Dubai desert air using Dutch innovation. It will also harvest energy through photovoltaic (PV) elements in the roof’s skylights, which will let light come through, but generate energy at the same time.”

The PV elements in the skylights will be designed and supplied by solar designer Marjan van Aubel Studio.

Spierings concludes: “Given the fact that people are spending considerable time focusing on screens, we also wanted to let them focus on the other senses. The pavilion is going to offer a sensory space, which will trigger their sense of sight, as well as their hearing, feeling, smelling, and tasting.

“To find out more about these experiences, visit the Netherlands pavilion when Expo 2020 Dubai opens its doors in October. I will promise you that we will give you an experience that you’ve never had before. Hopefully, you will walk out inspired by what can be achieved with Dutch innovations that unite water, energy, and food, and how to use these resources in a sustainable and responsible way.”

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