Selgascano + FRPO to Design Inflatable Canopy for Spain's EXPO 2020 National Pavilion

Spanish Pavilion. Image Courtesy of Selgascano & FRPO Spanish Pavilion. Image Courtesy of Selgascano & FRPO

Architecture firms Selgascano and FRPO have been selected to design Spain's National Pavilion for EXPO 2020 in Dubai. The winning proposal includes an inflatable canopy of nine yellow ETFE cylinders set within a steel framework. Reinterpreting the Spanish plaza, the design creates a new take on the public square. The pavilion was made to be ultralight as a more sustainable structure that could be easily removed and transported. Formed as a 'breathing pavilion', the design allows two inflatables to move up and down to respond to views, light and breeze.

Spanish Pavilion. Image Courtesy of Selgascano & FRPO Spanish Pavilion. Image Courtesy of Selgascano & FRPO

The Spanish Pavilion aims to be an icon that captivates the interest of visitors and offers an unexpected experience and surprising image. Focusing on experience, the designers hoped to reinforce an image of Spain as an innovative and creative country. Reinterpreting a typical Spanish plaza, the project includes an elevated square underneath inflatables with room for diverse programming and installations. The shaded space is made to adapt to the climate of Dubai with natural thermal conditioning. Underneath, a matrix of large fans will move air to accompany the gentle breeze generated by natural convection.

Spanish Pavilion. Image Courtesy of Selgascano & FRPO Spanish Pavilion. Image Courtesy of Selgascano & FRPO

The pavilion builds on the idea of the Spanish square by rethinking its historic link to water. As the designers state, the pavilion design acknowledges, "water contained, conducted and recirculated; never wasted. The Plaza is marked with three areas of native vegetation and moving water that act as a small oasis. These three zones help temper the heat and act as a source of shade and life." The project will also include a restaurant and tapas bar for leisure and relaxation. 

Spanish Pavilion Spanish Pavilion

At its core, bathrooms, stairs, elevators and offices will be grouped together. The terrace of the tapas bar will merge with the square to allow different programs to take place. This is a space that mixes gastronomic experience with spatial and sensory stimuli, not unlike squares and famous steps across cities in Spain. The roof of the restaurant pavilion is accessible through a spiral staircase. Here, a bar serves the space and opens up to views over the entire Plaza del Pabellón. It is made as a place to relax, observe and rest. Under the square, space is given to the entire program of exhibitions and services required in the bases while using the minimum surface area necessary.

Spanish Pavilion. Image Courtesy of Selgascano & FRPO Spanish Pavilion. Image Courtesy of Selgascano & FRPO

The visitors' route begins with a gentle ascent to the Plaza that leads to a patio-garden inside the Pavilion. The first phase of the visitor experience and show takes place on the ramp that descends from the Plaza around from the first garden and flows into a shaded space. Here, an audiovisual projection will be along the perimeter and can follow the form of a vault. At the end of the route the visitor goes to the Exposition Gallery, which lets in natural light with a second landscaped patio and lets in water, which can be closed or opened according to the needs of the exhibition space. The exit of the gallery leads to the store, and leaving the store, the tour ends in the third garden. Here, a multipurpose area and large spiral staircase leads back to the plaza. All the exhibition program is resolved in a single level.

Spanish Pavilion. Image Courtesy of Selgascano & FRPO Spanish Pavilion. Image Courtesy of Selgascano & FRPO

The structural system of the building is divided into 2 subsystems at the height of the main square: The roof subsystem (above) and the slab subsystem (below, including the plaza itself). For the slab subsystem, a mixed system has been developed using cylindrical steel pillars and curved steel beams. In this system, four main features stand out: ease of assembly and disassembly, flexibility of forms, carrying capacity and lightness. The structural roof subsystem is directly linked to the type of inflatable roof designed in the project. A network of cables has been created at different heights that are anchored along the perimeter of the building. For those pillars where it is not possible to connect with the larger framework, a bracing system has been created with individual cable-stays.

The pavilion is designed to emit zero emissions with the help of 1,000 square meters of rooftop photo-voltaic panels. In turn, the design team designed the inflatable deck with more than 80% certified recycled material. The ultralight pavilion aims to be a more sustainable structure that could be easily removed and transported as it takes on other lives after the EXPO.