Australian expo pavilion visualises blue sky dreaming

30 March 2021
Australia’s ethos for Expo 2020 is to showcase its ingrained spirit of optimism, ideas and ambition to the world

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At Expo 2020, Australia’s objectives are simple: showcase the best of Australia, challenge the perception of the nation, and bring innovation to expo.

“Australia does not participate at every expo,” explains Justin McGowan, commissioner general of the Australian pavilion at Expo 2020. “We look at each World Expo on a case-by-case basis. We decided to [be a part] of Expo 2020 because the opportunity in Dubai was too compelling to be missed.”

The world's smallest continent has seen the benefits of participating in Expo 2020 even before the event opens its doors to the world in October 2021.

Nearly 50 Australian firms have secured more than $160m-worth of expo business deals, including Woods Bagot for designing the Dubai Exhibition Centre (alongside Aurecon Engineering); Voyage Control for logistics software; and Iomniscient for its facial recognition artificial intelligence (AI) software.

Australia also plans to promote trade and investment opportunities in verticals including education, space, urban development, agriculture, resources, renewables, technology, and diversity and gender equality.

“Australia is known for many things – our successful multi-cultural population, beautiful landscapes, friendlypeople. And we want to highlight that,” says McGowan. “But we also want to showcase our innovative side and show the world that we’re a really clever bunch – for example, did you know we invented wifi?”

Dreaming big

“We want to present a compelling visitor experience,” says McGowan. “The idea is that we want our visitors to leave with a feeling and an emotional connection to Australia.”

Under the theme 'Blue Sky Dreaming', Australia will celebrate its "indigenous connection to land, sky and sea and encapsulate the idea of blue sky thinking".

Headlining the 2,700 square-metre pavilion is a cloud canopy structure in a tectonic form, made up of a striking configuration of vertical panels. The powder-coated aluminium elements are in 10 varying lengths and are fitted at six different heights to create the appearance of a billowing cloud.

Australia completes pavilion fitout works

As a cohesive form derived from many individual parts, the cloud symbolises the strength Australia draws from a society that is socially, culturally and intellectually mobile.

“Just as a real cloud is made up of a series of droplets, our cloud structure comprises a myriad of disparate yet similar elements,” explains Liam Proberts, managing director at the Brisbane-headquartered Bureau Proberts, the architecture team behind the pavilion.

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

During the night, a series of lights will illuminate the cloud — creating a customised dynamic display to highlight festive moods, special days or mimic the Australian skies.

“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,” says Proberts.

The planned visitor journey through the pavilion involves a series of three experiences, highlighting Australia’s key objectives: multiculturalism, history and innovation.


“Over the past year, the world has gone through some really challenging times,” says McGowan. “And so, we want our pavilion to be a warm, welcoming space where people can come enjoy great food, culture and entertainment. There’s still much to be celebrated in the world, and we believe Australia looks at the world through a positive light.”

Underneath the canopy cloud, the terrain is sustainable cross laminated timber, made from eucalyptus trees from Australia. The reason behind this choice, explains McGowan, is because the material is both highly durable as well as sustainably sourced.

McGowan adds that while the current plan to is to dismantle and recycle the entire structure, new directives from the expo organisers suggest that the pavilion could be repurposed as part of District 2020.

The pavilion incorporates smart water-saving technologies by Australian bathroom products designer and pavilion partner Caroma. As the driest inhabited continent, Australia is all too familiar with tackling water resource challenges.

Caroma, well-versed in bringing innovation to the table, is bringing its Smart Command solution to expo. The system links all bathroom products (toilets, urinals and tapware) through wireless technology and enables round-the-clock tracking of water usage. It is estimated to reduce a building’s water consumption by a quarter.

Building lasting relationships

McGowan sees Expo 2020 as an opportunity to bring the world together in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We want to leverage this platform as an opportunity to support social and economic recovery in industries that have been hardest hit by Covid,” says McGowan. “For example, education and tourism, which have been greatly affected by international travel restrictions.”

The pandemic has also prompted the pavilion organisers to pay greater attention to their digital reach, including the installation of broadcast-quality cameras on premises to allow visitors to experience the pavilion and its event remotely.

One of the ways that McGowan expects to enable greater collaboration between countries is a sports diplomacy strategy. A 5,000 sq m sports, health and fitness hub has in part been allocated to Australia right beside its pavilion to host a range of sports and school events.

“We want to talk about the value of sports in building communities and countries,” says McGowan. “The idea is to use sport as a universal language to connect with each other, and all countries are more than welcome to join in.”

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