2020 World Expo Australian Pavilion

(2020 World Expo Australian Pavilion)


RFT to Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Lead Consultant
Decibel Architecture

Executive Architect
B+H Architects

Architect of Record
Al Grug

Indigenous Liaison/Graphic Design
David Lancashire Design

Landscape Architect
Phillip Johnson

Exhibition Design

Engineering Services
Buro Happold

Executive Technical Director / EXPO
PRV Consult

Acoustic Design
Marshall Day Acoustics

APP & Digital Capture Environment
Two Bulls

Signage & Wayfinding

Speciality Lighting
DPA Lighting

Early Contractor Input


Our 2018 proposal for the Australian Pavilion at the 2020 World Expo in UAE recalls an ancient Australian culture that presents contemporary challenges and tells stories of our common human future. We have as our fundamental pillars the notion of Country (in the true indigenous understanding and way beyond mere Earth and Land) and Sky (in the ancient sense of astronomy, of mythology and of cultural structures). The age old stories we tell are part of an Indigenous Cosmology that encompasses every single thing around us. This is an ancient knowledge system that we believe would have enthralled our visitors in Dubai.

The themes of the 2020 Expo are Opportunity, Mobility and Innovation, with an overarching theme of Creativity, Capability and Capacity. The Australian Pavilion is located on a prime site in the  Mobility Precinct.  Our proposal centres on the experience of movement, of continuity, and transition through the world. Songlines were an ancient way of tracking knowledge. Commencing with an understanding of the Indigenous condition and dreamtime stories of the night sky, or the Emu in the Milky way, our first Act is one of engaging with and exploring the landscape of Australia, and the connection between our Country and Celestial landscapes.

Our sincere thanks to our partners and collaborators, all of whom contributed to the many hours spent designing this proposal for Australia’s representation.  Although our proposal will not proceed in this iteration, our commitment to elevating Australia’s ancient stories and to this deep and precious and enduring culture remains. We will continue on our journey of deeper understanding and to realising and sharing these stories in the built form and beyond.



The above quotes formed title pages to the submission, and the proposed Pavilion Logo was the map of Australia in modern day ‘Song lines’ of flight and travel connecting us together and to the world.

Throughout human history, around the world, great stories are told in three parts.

A beginning, a middle and an end.

Often this is structured as the Past, Present and Future, a trilogy of parts. We have taken this fundamental structure and created an abstract of Land, Ascent, and Sky tripartite. Our story is told very simply.

Our show commences prior to touching the Land of our pavilion. Approach to the site reveals a vast quintessentially Australian corrugated iron form, cantilevered above a cool and shady Australian forest landscape of wild-flowers, grasses, shrubs, ferns and trees. The underside of the escarpment-like form is mirrored, revealing a fractured bird’s eye view to the internal space below the mass.


Australian landscapes are inscribed into our site. Carved into the earth to create an oasis beneath the similarly carved form above. The landscape will be stunning – an extraordinary Australian show garden, through which one moves and travels, plays and prays, this is a journey embedded in Country, with a Billabong fed by streams and towering waterfalls at the base that visitors descend towards.

Overhead, an oval oculus crisply carves out a section of sky – a section we can alter and control to transition from the actual Dubai sky through to a bright Australian sky, through sunset and into a star-filled night. This oculus has springing forth from it at key moments, a thin stream waterfall, linking Sky to Country, and falling into the Billabong at the heart of the Oasis. This will be a truly atmospheric revelation.

(Height and Envelope)

The total height of the pavilion is 13 metres which comes in at just over half of the maximum height allowance of 21 metres. In considering our site envelope strategy we wanted to ensure an efficient response was prioritised that could still create an expansive, inviting and stunning frontage. Given the challenging budget constraints, we sought to reduce cost, and also to avoid blockage or interference by the adjacent covered walkway being built by EXPO to the site boundary.

By creating a compressed undercroft (still some 9m high) we increase the drama and excitement of this escarpment while the digital oculus, internal waterfall and forest within create an intriguing and restorative destination to be explored by expo guests.

(Massing and Form)

Perforated Bluescope Australian Galvanised Corrugated iron clads the steel structure, creating a shaded, quintessentially Australian shed. that glows at night with star-like pinpricks from within.

The pavilion’s site massing seeks to sculpt away the front of the building creating an inviting frontage and under-croft along the main concourse. A large central oculus is then carved through the building creating a focal point and a connection between a landscaped ground plane and the sky above. A high impact, low footprint outcome.

(Structure and Detail)

BuroHappold and dB(A) have developed the pavilion’s structure & mass such that the cores & primary building volume at one end allows a large lightweight cantilever to extend out from the cores. Two columns are concealed in the ramps as secondary supports for the cantilevering roof. Trusses frame the roof structure and central oculus, allowing light-weight cladding and solar to be supported on the main 25m cantilevered escarpment section.

(Baby Emu Family - Mascot)

The Mascot for the Australian Pavilion is proposed as a young family of three Emu Chicks. What are their names? Let’s ask Australia! They will be able to be digitally collected, and activated as Augmented Reality characters sited on the EXPO passport stamp.