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Inside the UAE Pavilion at the EXPO 2010 in Shanghai, China.
Inside the UAE Pavilion at the EXPO 2010 in Shanghai, China.
The Yas Marina Link Bridge.
The Yas Marina Link Bridge.
The UAE Pavilion at the EXPO 2010 in Shanghai, China.
The UAE Pavilion at the EXPO 2010 in Shanghai, China.

Dune sweeps all before it

The pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo is a stunning creation that is capturing the imagination of visitors and awards judges alike. It is also proving a very useful tool in promoting the country globally.

The shimmering, gold-coloured glass UAE pavilion in the shape of a sand dune at the Shanghai World Expo stands out from the crowd.

With sleek curves and a stunning interior, the building is testament to the Emirates's cutting-edge drive into the 21st century.

"We've risen to become one of the top players in the expo," says Peter Vine, a co-ordinator of the UAE expo team.

It is so eye-catching that the pavilion is now in the running for top awards at the expo's final competition this month.

Mr Vine says the project has already won three prizes, including second place in the international category of the US National Council of Structural Engineers Associations awards.

The other winners are the US$1.5 billion (Dh5.51bn) Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and the bridge that leads to the Yas Hotel in the multibillion-dollar Yas Island project in Abu Dhabi, proof of the growing role of the UAE in world architecture.

Up next for the UAE pavilion is the final competition in Shanghai, which comes on October 30 when an international jury makes its final judgements.

"We face huge competition, particularly from the likes of Saudi Arabia, but our exhibition has become one of the most popular in the expo," Mr Vine says.

The pavilion comprises two elements shaped like large dunes, with smooth exteriors on one side and a rougher covering on the others to imitate the effects of wind in the desert.

The aesthetic features also serve to reduce heat on the buildings when the sun is at its peak.

Inside, the organisers have prepared videos and other exhibitions to market the Emirates to tourists and convince businessmen of the country's economic promise.

Engineers are already figuring out how to dismantle and move the entire pavilion back to the UAE at the end of the expo, where it is due be rebuilt on Saadiyat Island as a permanent exhibit.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has spent more than $100 million on its exhibition pavilion, which is comprised of a huge boat-like structure in the shape of a half moon. It covers almost 6,000 square metres, whereas the UAE pavilion covers 3,900 sq metres.

"The queue for Saudi Arabia is five hours most days," Mr Vine says. "We are in the three-to-four hour queue mode."

He says the idea for the UAE pavilion came about when Foster and Partners submitted an unrelated design for another project to the Federal Government.

"While the original design was beautiful and inspiring, it didn't have a connection to the UAE," Mr Vine says. "The idea was then to design a sand-dune building, which would have a cultural connection with the country but not connected with any emirate in particular."

The pavilion was eventually built with Foster + Partners and East China Architectural Design Institute as the lead co-architects.

Halvorson and Partners was the structural engineering consultancy and Ralph Appelbaum Associates did the internal fit-out with lighting and interior design.

The structure is made of flat, stainless steel panels that are connected by adjustable nodes. The highest peak rises to 20 metres.

He Jingtang, the dean of the architecture design institute under the South China University of Technology, called it an "architectural miracle" in August.

Mr Vine says the pavilion is primarily a chance to inform visitors about the culture of the UAE and sustainability projects such as Masdar City, but that it has also become a major commercial meeting place for UAE companies.

Jumeirah Group, the hospitality company based in Dubai, recently hosted its business partners from China at the exhibit.

Other companies that have met clients there include Abu Dhabi's Tourism Development & Investment Company, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority and Emaar Properties, which is based in Dubai

"Our objective is to make every-one who comes to the pavilion want to visit the UAE, whether it's for business or pleasure," Mr Vine says.

Also important, he says, is the role Chinese tourism to the Gulf will play.

"The links between the UAE and China are strong," Mr Vine says. "There is huge potential for Chinese tourism to the UAE. I think all the countries at the expo are using it to strengthen ties with China."



Country impresses the judges
The UAE swept up all three of the international category structural engineering awards in the US recently. Here are the judges’ verdicts in the US National Council of Structural Engineers Associations 2010 awards:

Outstanding Project
Burj Khalifa in Dubai
Structural engineer: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Chicago
The judges’ verdict “The Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building and the world’s tallest structure. At 828 metres in height, it surpasses the previous world’s tallest building by a staggering 319 metres. A structural system was developed to support the height of this building – the buttressed core … the building also utilised the wind tunnel to confirm and refine massing and shaping, thereby reducing wind forces and motions on the tower.”

Award winners
UAE pavilion at Shanghai World Expo in China
Structural engineer: Halvorson and Partners, Chicago
The judges’ verdict“Rising to a height of 20 metres, the sand-dune inspired pavilion encloses 3,900 sq metres of exhibition showcase for the UAE at the fair.”

Yas Marina Link Bridge in Abu Dhabi
Structural engineer: Arup, New York
The judges’ verdict “The Yas Marina Hotel Link Bridge is more than the typical linkage between buildings; it is a destination. Designed as a vantage point for viewing the Formula One races on the course below the structure, the Yas Marina Hotel Link Bridge was constructed in 17 months through a fast-track process.”


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