Brisbane-based practice bureau^proberts has designed Australia’s Pavilion for the World Expo 2020, that will be held in Dubai in October this year. Commissioned by the Australian Government to design the pavilion, the practice has depicted an expression of the country’s distinctive landscape and animated skies, with a cloud-like form suspended above folding timber.

“Sheltered by an expansive, cloud-like form, we’ve created a large, open gathering space at the heart of the pavilion,” says bureau^proberts’ Managing and Creative Director Liam Proberts.

“It offers a welcoming invitation to all visitors, echoing the warm and inclusive nature of Australians.”

The open-air spaces of the pavilion is key to capturing Australian sensibilities within the architecture, with a striking configuration of vertical aluminium panels, in various sizes, combining to create a large cloud that hovers over the pavilion. 

world expo 2020 australian pavilion bureau^proberts

“Just as a real cloud is made up of a series of droplets, our cloud structure comprises a myriad of disparate yet similar elements,” Proberts explains. 

“Together, they signify the way in which Australia is home to multiple cultures that unify and enhance our nation.”

Proberts says painting the cloud-like forms allowed the structure to have a seemingly three dimensional form.

“It was interesting to find that cumulus clouds appear throughout history in scenes of the Australian landscape. Not only is the cumulus cloud instantly recognisable on the Australian skyline, it’s also ubiquitous the world over.”

When night falls on the pavilion, a series of lights will illuminate the cloud — creating a dynamic display likened to the impact of a lightning bolt from an Australian thunderstorm.

“Our intention is for international visitors to get a sense of the ancient and rugged landscape we inhabit and for Australian visitors to feel a sense of familiarity and connectedness through the pavilion’s design.”

With the pavilion on display at the Expo for six months, the practice’s textural curation sought to deploy familiar, reusable and readily available products in order to mitigate unnecessary manufacturing and production processes and lessen environmental impact. 

“We chose cross laminated timber (CLT) for the terrain because it can be used in a large sculptural format, is sustainably sourced and can easily be dismantled,” Proberts says.

world expo 2020 australian pavilion bureau^proberts

The Australian Pavilion is expected to attract 1.3 million visitors across six months, in addition to business, industry and government representatives who will be hosted in a dedicated VIP facility which includes a second-storey balcony that overlooks the pavilion forecourt.

Proberts says the design process was equally invigorating and challenging for his team.

“We derived great satisfaction from translating the essence of Australia — or its qualitative elements — into a built form,” he says.

“We like to go beyond the brief to make a cultural contribution. A world expo has a rich history and is the perfect platform for architecture to fulfil and yet transcend form and function.”

The World Expo 2020 will be held in Dubai from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022. The Expo doubles as a return for bureau^proberts, with the practice previously working with artist Idris Khan on an art installation and pavilion in Abu Dhabi for his piece Wahat Al Karama.