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Tolerant Aesthetics of Terraforming

The World Expo is a gigantic event; it is difficult to give it one definition or cover it at a glance. All the more so – such an ambitious and record-breaking fair as the one that is now open in Dubai despite all the pandemic restrictions. By no means claiming to present an all-rounded review, we are making an attempt to examine Expo 2020, where signs of aesthetic tolerance of a developer project begin to loom behind the imposing-looking “wings” of “star” architects and delights from space exploration.

18 October 2021
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The very first World Expo, at the time called World’s Fair, took place in 1851 in London, UK, and covered an area of 10 hectares with 25 countries participating in it. Since then the area of the exhibition varied from tens of hectares in Europe to 500 hectares in the US, but the number of participating nations rarely exceeded one hundred. Over the last 20 years, four big Expos have been held, the Expo in Dubai being the fifth one. Interestingly, in Hannover, Germany, in 2000, in Nakaguta, Japan, in 2005, and in Milan, Italy, in 2015, the area of the exhibition grounds was 160, 173, and 110 hectares respectively, and the number of participating nations was 155, 121, and 145, which provides some average figures for generalized main fairs of the 21st century – these figures are large, but not final. Against this background, the World Expo in Shanghai purposefully broke all the records, its area being 528 hectares, its number of visitors 73 million people, the number of nations participating 192 – considering the fact that the number of independent nations in the world oscillated between 195 and 197. Meaning – almost the whole planet was involved. 

The current World Expo 2020 in Dubai, the first one held in an Arabian country, set a goal if not to surpass then to be on a level with the Shanghai expo in terms of all the key figures, which was almost achieved: the number of nations participating is 192 – not the biggest figure ever but precisely as many as was involved in the Shanghai exhibition. The area is slightly smaller but still big enough – 438 hectares. Considering the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, because of which the exhibition had to be postponed for a year (keeping the “key” number of 2020 in its name), such figures can also be considered a kind of record.

Robots provided by Terminus travel around the exhibition. What they are doing is unclear. When you address them they ask not to interfere and let them pass, hinting at some kind of security mission.
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


The fairgrounds are located within the city limits in its southern part, behind the industrial areas and next to the new airport. Unlike in Shanghai, the future of this district has been carefully planned: 80% of the exhibition infrastructure, including the high-profile pavilions, particularly the ones that are LEED- and Platinum-certified, will be preserved. Around them, housing complexes and mixed-use developments will be built, which will ultimately result in the appearance of a sustainable and environmentally friendly area called “District 2020” – the master plan for subsequent development is available here; below is the comparison of the plan and the nucleus that the exhibition currently occupies. You can see that around the “fan” semicircle, where now the parking lots are situated, at least two additional semicircles must appear, and the exhibition center next to the metro station must expand.

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    Master plan for the development of District 2020 after the completion of the Expo with the distribution of functions. When compared with the plan, it can be seen that office buildings and multilevel parking lots appear between the “petals” of th
    Copyright: Скрин-шот, источник – сайт экспо 2020
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    The plan of the Expo 2020 exhibition. The 3 main petals proposed in the HOK master plan, the spaces between them, and the central square under the dome are filled in. The exhibition center at the entrance is only half built, maybe even a third. The buildi
    Copyright: Скрин-шот, источник – сайт экспо 2020


The prospects of turning it into an innovation district – a mini-city at the southern outskirts of Dubai – make the World Expo 2020 project, on the one hand, really sustainable (because all of the resources are spent on something permanent instead of temporary), and, on the other hand, make you want to take a closer look at its infrastructure, components, and history. All of these things, as is usually the case with large-scale developments, have a number of “layers”. 

The most prominent layer – crème de la crème – are the projects by “star” architects. In this respect, the indisputable leader is the pavilion of the host nation, the UAE, designed by Santiago Calatrava: white, with a dome inside and a sunken-in multi-tier yard on the outside, covered with giant “wings” whose ends hover half a meter above the ground, forming a shady gallery around the building. The wings are inspired by the image of a local falcon “in flight”, their flaps are movable, they smoothly rise and fall from time to time, demonstrating either a “tousled” or a “combed” version of the building. After the Expo, the pavilion will become a cultural center.

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    Santiago Calatrava, the UAE pavilion. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
    Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru
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    Santiago Calatrava, the UAE pavilion. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
    Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru
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    Santiago Calatrava, the UAE pavilion. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
    Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru
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    Santiago Calatrava, the UAE pavilion. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
    Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru
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    Santiago Calatrava, the UAE pavilion. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
    Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru
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    Santiago Calatrava, the UAE pavilion. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
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    Santiago Calatrava, the UAE pavilion. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
    Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


Calatrava designed yet another pavilion at the Expo, the one of the state of Qatar – small, looking like an elegant white sail, it is inspired by the image of a boat, the main means of transportation of fishermen and pirates who historically inhabited the peninsula.

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    Santiago Calatrava, the Qatar pavilion. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
    Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru
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    Santiago Calatrava, the Qatar pavilion. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
    Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru
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    Santiago Calatrava, the Qatar pavilion. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
    Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


Another pavilion that probably deserves the “star” status is Singapore’s, designed by WOHA, locally based, but known worldwide. The pavilion completely consists of vertical greenery, surrounded by large trees symbolizing a rainforest. The visitors are offered to walk down the ramps, winding between three conical structures; there is a pond in front of the pavilion. There are steam guns here and there, but they are of little help – since there are no external walls, the surrounding climate of the desert is taking its toll, and some of the plants (not all of them, but just a few) dried up.

WOHA, the Singapore pavilion. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


WOHA, the Singapore pavilion. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


WOHA, the Singapore pavilion. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


Other beautiful and attention-worthy pavilions in terms of architecture are those of Finland, Luxembourg, Great Britain, Bahrain, Brazil, Poland, Portugal, Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Japan – we hope to review these interesting pavilions in the near future. The Russian Pavilion, designed by Sergei Tchoban, occupies a prominent place among them; it is planned that this pavilion, along with a few others, will be preserved after the Expo.

The motto of the exhibition is “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”, and to explore this topic, the participants were offered three keywords or “subthemes”: mobility / sustainability / opportunity. And, in accordance with the master plan, developed by HOK, Populous, and Arup, the fairgrounds are divided into three subtheme “petals”, each of which ends in a large pavilion that does not belong either to a country or a corporation, but is meant to reveal one of the subthemes. Initially, in 2016, one giant pavilion from “star” architects was announced for each of the thematic zones: the theme of mobility was developed by Foster and Partners, Nicholas Grimshaw worked on sustainability, and the opportunity pavilion was designed by Bjarke Ingels. Out of three, two were left. 

The Mobility pavilion (or “Alif”, which is the first letter of the Arabic alphabet), designed by Norman Foster, can arguably be considered the next “star” one, second only to Calatrava’s “white bird”. The giant trefoil expands from the bottom up with ledges of metal outriggers, which helps to form a shadow around, in particular, for a couple of amphitheaters. Another thing that attracts attention are the high-quality concrete elements at the basis of the building.

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    Foster and Partners. The “Mobility” pavilion. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
    Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru
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    Foster and Partners. The “Mobility” pavilion. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
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    Foster and Partners. The “Mobility” pavilion. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
    Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru
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    World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
    Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


Unlike the Calatrava pavilion, which deserves to be seen because of its architecture alone, the exposition of the Mobility pavilion, devoted to the history of travel, starting from the great transmigration of people and ending in space exploration, is mesmerizing in itself: we are greeted by giant naturalistically executed heads of Arab travelers, then a projection on a giant ball in the central hall and a bright, rainbow-like, “journey to the future”, which consists of projects of cities proposed by children and a lot of iridescent butterflies at the end. The visitors are brought to the beginning of the exposition by an elevator platform located in the core of the trefoil and capable of lifting up to 160 people at a time.

Foster and Partners. The “Mobility” pavilion. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


From the outside, the pavilion is surrounded by a bypass, partially buried in the ground, partially elevated on bridges – apparently, a 330-meter track was originally announced, on which the visitors would be able to observe state-of-the-art devices in action; but so far there are no devices detected on this road, it is also impossible to walk upon it, and the earlier announced “path” partially surrounding the Mobility pavilion remains a mystery.

It is expected that later on the building will be used as an office center.

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    The track in the south part of the Mobility pavilion. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
    Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru
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    The track in the south part of the Mobility pavilion. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
    Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


The main thematic pavilion of another petal – the “sustainability” one, also named Terra – was designed by Nicholas Grimshaw in the form of a giant tilted funnel surrounded by smaller “flowers”. All the structures collect solar energy, as well as rainwater and condensed water. The building has received a LEED certificate – it is “zero” in terms of energy consumption and emissions. The funnel covers the sunken-in courtyard with its shadow; a garden is laid out in the raised part above it – but due to the large size and winding paths, it takes painfully long to circle the building, getting up and down, and asking for directions – in this sense, the Mobility pavilion is positioned in a clearer and simpler way, although there are no gardens around it.

Nicholas Grimshaw, Terra/Sustainability Pavilion. View from the Singapore Pavilion. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


Nicholas Grimshaw, Terra/Sustainability Pavilion. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


Nicholas Grimshaw, Terra/Sustainability Pavilion. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


Nicholas Grimshaw, Terra/Sustainability Pavilion. The gardens around it. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


The center of the large funnel comes to a symbolic deepened "well" in the interior – it has an installation on the topic of collecting condensate, with large drops on plastic leaves. However, this “well” collects water only symbolically: its top is covered with a transparent cloth, and it is this piece of cloth that accumulates water – which the attendants disperse with mops from time to time.

World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


The gigantic Sustainability pavilion, just as the metallic “umbrellas” around it, are seen from numerous angles on the exhibition territory – they palpably dominate in space, vividly demonstrating what powerful substructures and what a significant amount of metal are required in order to collect solar energy an rainwater and achieve the “zero emission” effect. Seeing this edifice, I recalled the flowers from the old Soviet cartoon “Secret of the Third Planet” – the ones that were used by the “bad guys” to record the cosmonauts on video.

It is planned that later on this building will host a children’s research center. 

The story of the main building of the third “Opportunity” petal with a motto of “Mission possible” turned out to be far from simple. Initially, in 2015, the project of a triangular building with recessed portals and a green courtyard was developed by Bjarke Ingels and BIG. In 2018, the organizers abandoned it in favor of the Cox Architecture project, almost three times smaller in area (4,500 m2 in the Cox project vs 12,000 m2 in BIG).

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    The “Opportunity” pavilion / Dubai Expo, the 2015 version, BIG architects
    Copyright: © BIG architects
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    The “Opportunity” pavilion / Dubai Expo, the 2015 version, BIG architects
    Copyright: © BIG architects
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    The “Opportunity” pavilion / Dubai Expo, the 2018 version, Cox architects
    Copyright: © Cox architects


This one, however, was later on replaced by a project submitted by AGi Architects, an architectural company, founded, as its website says, by Harvard professors, with offices in Madrid and Kuwait. The project is dated 2021 – in other words, apparently, it appeared right before the opening of the exhibition. The building is a frame lying around a spacious interior area, covered with metal structures clad in transparent fabric. This building is not marked on the master plan of the future city, which may have to do either with the complex history of this project or with the fact that it is not meant to be preserved – but then again, we could not find a definitive answer to the question about the future of this building.

AGi Architects, the “Opportunity” pavilion. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


A similar fate befell some elements of the HOK master plan – the one with which the UAE won the right to host the World Expo back in 2013. The trefoil structure did survive, immersed in the radial-and-circle plan of the semicircle of the future city, but the ropeway for moving around the exhibition and viewing it from up above, which was promised in 2013, remained on paper, being substituted by a system of shuttle busses cruising up and down the exhibition lanes. 

The overview from the cable car has been partially compensated by the elevator designed by the famous Briton Asif Khan – it lifts the visitors to a height of 55 meters above the exhibition for 5 minutes for 30 dirhams. A small garden on the platform is formed by peltophorum trees, with leaves like acacia and yellow flowers, familiar to the local climate; in the lower part, there is an air-conditioned space for those who prefer to survey the surroundings with comfort. 

Asif Khan also designed three openwork gates made of lightweight carbon fiber in front of the entrance to each of the petals – they are opened and closed in the morning and evening, and they stand a little apart, in the middle of the desert, because they meet those who approach from the side of the parking lots; but there are no gates on the subway side. 

Asif Khan, carbon fiber gate. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


Next to the watchtower, there is a so-called Water Feature – a white funnel with waterfalls, designed and built by the California-based WET Design (they are the authors of the fountain in front of Burj Dubai, as well as the music for the “Game of Thrones” series) in collaboration with the architects of SWA Group, urbanists with eight offices, most of which are based in the USA, and one in the neighboring city of Sharjah. The circular square is surrounded by walls, over which water flows sometimes slowly and sometimes in torrents; the sculpture of petals in the center of the square produces steam. It is difficult to say whether this structure is of interest from the point of view of architecture because it looks more like a tourist attraction of some water park – but in the local climate, where many visitors are looking to relax, it looks more than appropriate.

World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


Particularly amazing is the central “dome” square, to which three planning petals converge. In the preliminary sketches, the awnings of the alleys converged to the center in flying white petals – the result was a massive metal dome Al Wasl, designed by the British architectural companies Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture – a unique, the world’s largest screen for 360° projection. Its diameter is 130 m, height 67.5 m, and the weight of the steel structures is 2.544 tons, compared with the weight of 25 blue whales. The authors liken the dome with the traditional design of the oriental bazaar.

The structure, however, looks heavyweight and more like an element of some sideshow amusement park than the center of the World Fair – its key function is indicated only by its gigantic size and non-trivial task, but aesthetically the dome can be rated as “C” at the most. It totally misses the lightness and the paradoxical nature of a mirage in the desert, which are demonstrated by the entrance structures designed by Asif Khan; however, probably, the portals will be taken apart later on, and the dome will remain. It presents a particularly striking contrast next to the white wings of the Santiago Calatrava pavilion.

World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


The buildings that surround the dome – 3 office ones and 2 hotels – step up really close to it, cramming up the surrounding space and forming a contour that looks like Hagia Sophia from the outside, which is quite authentic for the Occident, but still not really beautiful. In addition, their facades are as commonplace as can be – I must say, they were somewhat more interesting in the project; in general, there is a feeling that some not the most pretentious chunk of Dubai’s office buildings of previous years was simply “transplanted” into the center of the exhibition. I even went as far as to check whether these buildings were some kind of legacy of some housing complex that used to be here back in the day – but no, these buildings were constructed special for this expo, the territory is being developed now. This complex presents a different, very “local” layer of the exhibition, which blithely stands up next to the pavilions designed by “star” Europeans, both thematic and national representations, creating an explosive mix, in which, for example, the white “shell” of the Luxembourg pavilion finds itself on one futuristic pole, and the Ukrainian pavilion, on the other hand, supports a retro trend.

World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


The pavilion of Ukraine. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


Here, just as you would expect on an oriental bazaar, you may find a little something to everybody’s taste, but, thanks to the pile of the office buildings in the center of the territory, we begin to see that the multicolored fabric of this international exhibition, designed to produce a WOW-effect, masks a rather trivial development project, indifferent to aesthetic issues, and ready to distort any design solution for the sake of various external reasons: economic, organizational, or the good old “because I want it that way!” But then again, who says this is NOT our future? Probably, the future is not only for space programs, Mars exploration, water extraction from the air and networks of mini-satellites, but also for the tolerance of aesthetic solutions observed here, so multi-level and at the same time coexisting so peacefully and “normally” that it makes you hair stand up on end. 

Special for Expo 2020 and as one of the arguments for holding the exhibition in Dubai, a new metro line was designed and built, branching off from the main “red line” running along the coast. Its length is 15 km; its task is, on the one hand, to serve the flow of Expo visitors, and on the other, to help the development projects in the territory extending from the coast and into the desert. The project is authored by the London-based architectural firm Weston Williamson+Partners. The way from the city to the Expo is indeed most convenient by metro, since the terminal station goes directly to the exhibition center and its entrance. Visually, however, the golden canopies proposed by the British architects look like they were designed pretty fast and loose: the silhouette with a spread of ribbed wings is seen from afar – my colleagues even suspected the authorship of Santiago Calatrava – yet when you come up close, the implementation seems rather clumsy: the ribs are too thick, the spread is not too great, and the paint is too yellow. Nothing is left of the originally planned “golden structures growing into the interiors”, and nothing is left from the intended winter gardens – even though the galleries of the metro station are wide and full of backlighting. Apparently, the most refined elements of the idea of 2016, which can be found here, were lost during the adaptation of the project.

The metro terminal. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


The metro terminal. World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


The less critical parts of the infrastructure look calmer and better. The visitor centers with grocery stores, toilets, and even shower cabins, very handy in the climate of Dubai, are simple, white, and light; it is unknown, however, whether or not they will be preserved.

The standard buildings in the “petals”, however, will probably be preserved: the 4 to 6-story houses made of prefabricated panels with decorative screens – currently, they are designed to host the pavilions of the countries that cannot afford to implement an independent project of their own, this was made in order to reach the “record-breaking” number of participants – later on, the ones that are closer to the center will be turned into housing stock, and those that are farther away from the center will host various businesses.

World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


Landscaping is the best part here that raises no questions – a lot of money has been invested in it: a lot of greenery has appeared in the desert, including mature palm trees. There are several playgrounds and parks on the fairgrounds, inspired by the image of “wadi” rivers arising in the desert after heavy rains. The park was designed by the same company as the Water Feature – SWA Group.

World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


Yet another interesting project is the benches in the form of Arabic inscriptions denoting various good words, for example, “happiness” – they, just as the gate and the observation tower, were invented by Asif Khan together with the Arabic typographer Lara Captan. Some of them are fitted with steam generators. Fountains of drinking water are placed on the alleys, which is very appropriate; in some places there are “dry” fountains.

World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru
 

Otherwise, Expo 2020 is a great celebration. The pavilions glow on the inside by day and on the outside by night. It gets dark early; the peak of attendance is planned for the winter, when the evening time will take up almost half of the working time of the exhibition. The three planes of the Saudi Arabian pavilion, for example, have been turned into one large screen for media projection. Everything moves and shines. It entertains you, and does not impose tedious “reading” on you – but then again, studying a huge exhibition requires a lot of effort in any case.

World Expo 2020 in Dubai, 10.2021
Copyright: Photograph : Archi.ru


The numerous movie theaters and media screens create an absolutely enchanting impression – from all sides we are told how close is the fantastic future with universal equality and space flights for everyone, at the same time not alien to environmental responsibility. Your reason tells you how unrealistic this is, but your feelings say the opposite – in fact, Dubai itself is a territory of successful terraforming, turning the desert into blooming gardens, and Expo 2020 is a new, technically advanced example of all of these things, such as successful human impact on nature, as stated, with zero emissions and very sustainable – despite all the energy of the invasion, and despite the abundance of concrete, metal, and electricity. At some point, you buy into these flashing shows and really start believing that everything is possible: the progress, the sustainability, and the unity of opposites – you only need to calculate it right. In some ways, this is like a Luna Park that makes its visitors believe that they are already on the Moon, falling for the temptation of shining projections, not noticing how inappropriate the heavy metal dome is and how trivial the offices around it are.

Expo 2020 is open until March 31, 2022, the pavilions are open until 22:00, fairgrounds are open for visiting Sat-Wed until 0:00, Thu-Fri until 02:00.

18 October 2021

Headlines now
The Fulcrum
Ostozhenka Architects have designed two astonishing towers practically on the edge of a slope above the Oka River in Nizhny Novgorod. These towers stand on 10-meter-tall weathered steel “legs”, with each floor offering panoramic views of the river and the city; all public spaces, including corridors, receive plenty of natural light. Here, we see a multitude of solutions that are unconventional for the residential routine of our day and age. Meanwhile, although these towers hark back to the typological explorations of the seventies, they are completely reinvented in a contemporary key. We admire Veren Group as the client – this is exactly how a “unique product” should be made – and we tell you exactly how our towers are arranged.
The Secret Briton
The house is called “Little France”. Its composition follows the classical St. Petersburg style, with a palace-like courtyard. The decor is on the brink of Egyptian lotuses, neo-Greek acroteria, and classic 1930s “gears”; the recessed piers are Gothic, while the silhouette of the central part of the house is British. It’s quite interesting to examine all these details, attempting to understand which architectural direction they belong to. At the same time, however, the house fits like a glove in the context of the 20th line of St. Petersburg’s Vasilievsky Island; its elongated wings hold up the façade quite well.
The Wrap-Up
The competition project proposed by Treivas for the first 2021 competition for the Russian pavilion at EXPO 2025 concludes our series of publications on pavilion projects that will not be implemented. This particular proposal stands out for its detailed explanations and the idea of ecological responsibility: both the facades and the exhibition inside were intended to utilize recycled materials.
Birds and Streams
For the competition to design the Omsk airport, DNK ag formed a consortium, inviting VOX architects and Sila Sveta. Their project focuses on intersections, journeys, and flights – both of people and birds – as Omsk is known as a “transfer point” for bird migrations. The educational component is also carefully considered, and the building itself is filled with light, which seems to deconstruct the copper circle of the central entrance portal, spreading it into fantastic hyper-spatial “slices”.
Faraday Grid
The project of the Omsk airport by ASADOV Architects is another concept among the 14 finalists of a recent competition. It is called “The Bridge” and is inspired by both the West Siberian Exhibition of 1911 and the Trans-Siberian Railway bridge over the Irtysh River, built in 1896. On one hand, it carries a steampunk vibe, while on the other, there’s almost a sense of nostalgia for the heyday of 1913. However, the concept offers two variants, the second one devoid of nostalgia but featuring a parabola.
Midway upon the Journey of Our Life
Recently, Tatlin Publishing House released a book entitled “Architect Sergey Oreshkin. Selected Projects”. This book is not just a traditional book of the architectural company’s achievements, but rather a monograph of a more personal nature. The book includes 43 buildings as well as a section with architectural drawings. In this article, we reflect on the book as a way to take stock of an architect’s accomplishments.
Inverted Fortress
This year, there has been no shortage of intriguing architectural ideas around the Omsk airport. The project developed by the architectural company KPLN appeals to Omsk’s history as a wooden fortress that it was back in the day, but transforms the concept of a fortress beyond recognition: it “shaves off” the conical ends of “wooden logs”, then enlarges them, and then flips them over. The result is a hypostyle – a forest of conical columns on point supports, with skylights on top.
Transformation of Annenkirche
For Annenkirche (St. Anna Lutheran Church in St. Petersburg), Sergey Kuznetsov and the Kamen bureau have prepared a project that relies on the principles of the Venice Charter: the building is not restored to a specific date, historical layers are preserved, and modern elements do not mimic the authentic ones. Let’s delve into the details of these solutions.
The Paradox of the Temporary
The concept of the Russian pavilion for EXPO 2025 in Osaka, proposed by the Wowhaus architects, is the last of the six projects we gathered from the 2022 competition. It is again worth noting that the results of this competition were not finalized due to the cancellation of Russia’s participation in World Expo 2025. It should be mentioned that Wowhaus created three versions for this competition, but only one is being presented, and it can’t be said that this version is thoroughly developed – rather, it is done in the spirit of a “student assignment”. Nevertheless, the project is interesting in its paradoxical nature: the architects emphasized the temporary character of the pavilion, and in its bubble-like forms sought to reflect the paradoxes of space and time.
The Forum of Time
The competition project for the Russian Pavilion at EXPO 2025 in Osaka designed by Aleksey Orlov and Arena Project Institute consists of cones and conical funnels connected into a non-trivial composition, where one can feel the hand of architects who have worked extensively with stadiums and other sports facilities. It’s very interesting to delve into its logic, structurally built on the theme of clocks, hourglasses and even sundials. Additionally, the architects have turned the exhibition pavilion into a series of interconnected amphitheaters, which is also highly relevant for world exhibitions. We are reminding you that the competition results were never announced.
Mirrors Everywhere
The project by Sergey Nebotov, Anastasia Gritskova, and the architectural company “Novoe” was created for the Russian pavilion at EXPO 2025, but within the framework of another competition, which, as we learned, took place even earlier, in 2021. At that time, the competition theme was “digital twins”, and there was minimal time for work, so the project, according to the architect himself, was more of a “student assignment”. Nevertheless, this project is interesting for its plan bordering on similarity with Baroque projects and the emblem of the exhibition, as well as its diverse and comprehensive reflectiveness.
The Steppe Is Full of Beauty and Freedom
The goal of the exhibition “Dikoe Pole” (“Wild Field”) at the State Historical Museum was to move away from the archaeological listing of valuable items and to create an image of the steppe and nomads that was multidirectional and emotional – in other words, artistic. To achieve this goal, it was important to include works of contemporary art. One such work is the scenography of the exhibition space developed by CHART studio.
The Snowstorm Fish
The next project from the unfinished competition for the Russian Pavilion at EXPO 2025, which will be held in Osaka, Japan, is by Dashi Namdakov and Parsec Architects. The pavilion describes itself as an “architectural/sculptural” one, with its shape clearly reminiscent of abstract sculpture of the 1970s. It complements its program with a meditative hall named “Mendeleev’s Dreams”, and offers its visitors to slide from its roof at the end of the tour.
The Mirror of Your Soul
We continue to publish projects from the competition for the design of the Russian Pavilion at EXPO in Osaka 2025. We are reminding you that the results of the competition have not been announced, and hardly will ever be. The pavilion designed by ASADOV Architects combines a forest log cabin, the image of a hyper transition, and sculptures made of glowing threads – it focuses primarily on the scenography of the exhibition, which the pavilion builds sequentially like a string of impressions, dedicating it to the paradoxes of the Russian soul.
Part of the Ideal
In 2025, another World Expo will take place in Osaka, Japan, in which Russia will not participate. However, a competition for the Russian pavilion was indeed held, with six projects participating. The results were never announced as Russia’s participation was canceled; the competition has no winners. Nevertheless, Expo pavilion projects are typically designed for a bold and interesting architectural statement, so we’ve gathered all the six projects and will be publishing articles about them in random order. The first one is the project by Vladimir Plotkin and Reserve Union, which is distinguished by the clarity of its stereometric shape, the boldness of its structure, and the multiplicity of possible interpretations.
The Fortress by the River
ASADOV Architects have developed a concept for a new residential district in the center of Kemerovo. To combat the harsh climate and monotonous everyday life, the architects proposed a block type of development with dominant towers, good insolation, facades detailed at eye level, and event programming.
In the Rhombus Grid
Construction has begun on the building of the OMK (United Metallurgical Company) Corporate University in Nizhny Novgorod’s town of Vyksa, designed by Ostozhenka Architects. The most interesting aspect of the project is how the architects immersed it in the context: “extracting” a diagonal motif from the planning grid of Vyksa, they aligned the building, the square, and the park to match it. A truly masterful work with urban planning context on several different levels of perception has long since become the signature technique of Ostozhenka.
​Generational Connection
Another modern estate, designed by Roman Leonidov, is located in the Moscow region and brings together three generations of one family under one roof. To fit on a narrow plot without depriving anyone of personal space, the architects opted for a zigzag plan. The main volume in the house structure is accentuated by mezzanines with a reverse-sloped roof and ceilings featuring exposed beams.
Three Dimensions of the City
We began to delve into the project by Sergey Skuratov, the residential complex “Depo” in Minsk, located at Victory Square, and it fascinated us completely. The project has at least several dimensions to it: historical – at some point, the developer decided to discontinue further collaboration with Sergey Skuratov Architects, but the concept was approved, and its implementation continues, mostly in accordance with the proposed ideas. The spatial and urban planning dimension – the architects both argue with the city and play along with it, deciphering nuances, and finding axes. And, finally, the tactile dimension – the constructed buildings also have their own intriguing features. Thus, this article also has two parts: it dwells on what has been built and what was conceived
New “Flight”
Architects from “Mezonproject” have developed a project for the reconstruction of the regional youth center “Polyot”(“Flight”) in the city of Oryol. The summer youth center, built back in the late 1970s, will now become year-round and acquire many additional functions.
The Yauza Towers
In Moscow, there aren’t that many buildings or projects designed by Nikita Yavein and Studio 44. In this article, we present to you the concept of a large multifunctional complex on the Yauza River, located between two parks, featuring a promenade, a crossroads of two pedestrian streets, a highly developed public space, and an original architectural solution. This solution combines a sophisticated, asymmetric façade grid, reminiscent of a game of fifteen puzzle, and bold protrusions of the upper parts of the buildings, completely masking the technical floors and sculpting the complex’s silhouette.
Arch, Pearl, Wing, Wind
In the social media of the governor of the Omsk region, voting was conducted for the best project for the city’s new airport. We asked the finalists to send over their projects and are now showcasing them. The projects are quite interesting: the client requested that the building be visually permeable throughout, and the images that the architects are working with include arches, wings, gusts of wind, and even the “Pearl” painting by Vrubel, who was actually born in Omsk.
Architecture and Leisure Park
For the suburban hotel complex, which envisages various formats of leisure, the architectural company T+T Architects proposed several types of accommodation, ranging from the classic “standard” in a common building to a “cave in the hill” and a “house in a tree”. An additional challenge consisted in integrating a few classic-style residences already existing on this territory into the “architectural forest park”.
The U-House
The Jois complex combines height with terraces, bringing the most expensive apartments from penthouses down to the bottom floors. The powerful iconic image of the U-shaped building is the result of the creative search for a new standard of living in high-rise buildings by the architects of “Genpro”.
Black and White
In this article, we specifically discuss the interiors of the ATOM Pavilion at VDNKh. Interior design is a crucial component of the overall concept in this case, and precision and meticulous execution were highly important for the architects. Julia Tryaskina, head of UNK interiors, shares some of the developments.
The “Snake” Mountain
The competition project for the seaside resort complex “Serpentine” combines several typologies: apartments of different classes, villas, and hotel rooms. For each of these typologies, the KPLN architects employ one of the images that are drawn from the natural environment – a serpentine road, a mountain stream, and rolling waves.
Opal from Anna Mons’ Ring
The project of a small business center located near Tupolev Plaza and Radio Street proclaims the necessity of modern architecture in a specific area of Moscow commonly known as “Nemetskaya Sloboda” or “German settlement”. It substantiates its thesis with the thoroughness of details, a multitude of proposed and rejected form variants, and even a detailed description of the surrounding area. The project is interesting indeed, and it is even more interesting to see what will come of it.
Feed ’Em All
A “House of Russian Cuisine” was designed and built by KROST Group at VDNKh for the “Rossiya” exhibition in record-breaking time. The pavilion is masterfully constructed in terms of the standards of modern public catering industry multiplied by the bustling cultural program of the exhibition, and it interprets the stylistically diverse character of VDNKh just as successfully. At the same time, much of its interior design can be traced back to the prototypes of the 1960s – so much so that even scenes from iconic Soviet movies of those years persistently come to mind.
The Ensemble at the Mosque
OSA prepared a master plan for a district in the southern part of Derbent. The main task of the master plan is to initiate the formation of a modern comfortable environment in this city. The organization of residential areas is subordinated to the city’s spiritual center: depending on the location relative to the cathedral mosque, the houses are distinguished by façade and plastique solutions. The program also includes a “hospitality center”, administrative buildings, an educational cluster, and even an air bridge.
Pargolovo Protestantism
A Protestant church is being built in St. Petersburg by the project of SLOI architects. One of the main features of the building is a wooden roof with 25-meter spans, which, among other things, forms the interior of the prayer hall. Also, there are other interesting details – we are telling you more about them.