The theme of the Green Arch, according to BelExpo, is to catalyse architecture, structure, energy, landscape and scenography into one aesthetic and functional jewel.
The issues at stake during this international event have continued to evolve since the first Great Exhibition in London in 1851. This event, which is open to all nations, initially wanted to bring cultures face to face by offering everyone the opportunity to discover other traditions and other artistic expressions, grow their economy thanks to the latest technological inventions that brought progress and allow political and diplomatic dialogue. After several more commercial events, certain regulatory rules appeared and the World's Fair once again embraced more humanistic concerns and, despite its undeniable economic impact, continues in this vein today.
However, it reflects the climate of each era and when Belgium hosted the first Universal Exhibition after the Second World War in 1958, its theme, Balance Sheet of the World for a more Humane World, wanted to offer humanity an optimistic message. Through the various pavilions on display, it bore witness to the flourishing society of the time, which was centred on progress, confident in science, and eager to travel and have fun. The Atomium, the cable car in the city centre, the Sputnik models and the American circorama all left their mark.
In 2021, humanity's concerns and the technological and social context have indeed changed. As the motto of Expo 2020 Dubai, Connecting Minds, Creating the Future, shows, progress is still underway, but it is now focused on a world that we hope will be sustainable, built together and interconnected.
To reflect these developments and approach society from a new angle, one constant links each of the Universal Exhibitions, namely the Pavilions, a place for displaying and exhibiting the essence of the knowledge, know-how, traditions and spirit of each participant.
The pavilion, or the arduous exercise of bringing together all ambitions and knowledge in one place
Each participant in the World's Fair fervently complies with this constraint and vies to be the most ingenious, splendid and attractive so they can attract visitors. It is not just about building a visiting space or an exhibition area, but offering a showcase of all the know-how of the exhibiting country, linked to the theme of the Exhibition.
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The Green Arch, the Belgian pavilion
To illustrate in an ambitious way the theme of mobility, chosen by the sponsor of the Belgian pavilion, BelExpo, the Belgian Commission for International Exhibitions, the architects ASSAR architects and Vincent Callebaut Architecture and the contractors BESIX and Vanhout, in association with the design agency Krafthaus designed the Green Arch project jointly and were awarded the contract in 2019.
An eco-responsible building that offers free-flowing movement in a well ventilated green space, a jewel of technology for optimal environmental preservation and heightened pleasure for visitors.
On a plot of around 2,000 m2, visitors can access a four-storey plant arch, open on all sides, giving an impression of lightness thanks to its small floor coverage.
Environmental preservation is at the heart of the project, and the aim was to create a building that produces more energy than it consumes. To meet the challenges of sustainability, the choice was made to build with Belgian bio-sourced materials or materials of Belgian origin, with engineering based on the principles of circular construction.
The architectural design allows the entry of natural light and ventilation.
It is covered with thousands of local plants that capture CO2 and reduce the interior temperature by 3 to 5 degrees, a significant difference in an area where the average temperature is around 28° and remains above 30° for six months of the year. The building's reclaimed water is used to irrigate the green building, a circular water economy that is extremely important today, especially in a desert region.
Inside, the pavilion is divided into interactive exhibition spaces, gastronomic areas, a business centre and shops displaying the latest technological innovations and the heart of Belgium's know-how, helping to bring people, goods and ideas closer together.
The secret of this achievement
The involvement of several professionals who are experts in their field, advanced technicians and visionaries evolving at the heart of technological and human innovation is the keystone of this pavilion with the BEMOB 2020 consortium. Involved in the creation were renowned entrepreneurs BESIX and Vanhout, who are very well established in the Emirates and work hard to promote technologies from Belgium. They took up the challenge of translating the project of two international architectural firms into reality, and were able to surround themselves with the best experts.
ASSociation d'ARchitectes, the ASSAR bureau founded in 1985 is one of the largest in Belgium, with five offices (Brussels, Liège, Antwerp, Luxembourg and Paris) and some 150 employees. What makes ASSAR special? Openness and inclusiveness.
From the very beginning, the association has applied the same philosophy to its projects as it does to its team, namely placing humans at the heart of any programme and thus giving architecture its sensitive approach. Their trademark is building teams with different profiles, involving specialists, finding the best skills, in short trusting people to serve the project in the best way possible by including the clients, their needs and their diversity. Reliability, the complementarity of specialised teams and mastery of cutting-edge techniques are the DNA of ASSAR architects, and have enabled it to gain recognition beyond our national borders. This way of creating together allows great flexibility and constant learning anchored in the present.
Dreaming big while observing reality: Vincent Callebaut Architecture
To change our habits, adapt to the demands of a changing environment and find sustainable solutions, we certainly need the rigour of architecture, but also a capacity for fine observation, boundless curiosity and an abundant imagination. This is where Vincent Callebaut fits into the Belgian pavilion project for Expo 2020 Dubai.
Making the Green Arch project a reality with its demanding technical requirements, by developing new technologies and putting into practice the demands and ambitions of sustainable architecture, required this dreamer, who is a specialist in biomimetic architecture and archibiotics.
Archibiotic is the title of the book published by the architect, which presents what he believes are the three vectors of contemporary urbanism that allow the creation of smart, green architecture: architecture, biotechnologies and information technologies. Vincent Callebaut's approach is simple: take inspiration from nature. Nature that has survived, is able to adapt, uses mainly solar energy, consumes according to its needs, recycles everything, plays with biodiversity, is indeed very inspiring.
Vincent Callebaut Architecture is known worldwide for its majestic, eco-responsible and futuristic-looking buildings, straight out of a Schuiten cartoon. This contemporary architecture favours biomorphism by relying on the shapes invented by nature. It also uses certain construction strategies from life (bionics) which have been able to "invent" hyper-resistant structures such as beehives and spiral shells. Lastly, it is inspired by "mature" ecosystems where waste can become resources, energy and material expenditure is reduced to a minimum, and cooperation and diversification are the order of the day (biomimicry). This is what he finally calls ArchiBioTect, a new transdisciplinary approach composed of the three vectors mentioned above and which he created in 2008: ARCHItecture+BIOtechnology+Information and Communication TECHnology. Adding skills to find a necessary symbiosis between humans and their environment.
Like ASSAR Architects, Vincent Callebaut surrounds himself and works with scientific experts and engineers to develop his projects: positive energy buildings, urban farms, vertical gardens, soft mobility spaces in eco-districts which include the citizen, plant-covered buildings that depollute cities and offer islands of coolness...
A native of La Louvière and a graduate of the Victor Horta Institute of the Faculty of Architecture of the Université libre de Bruxelles, Vincent Callebaut is based in Paris, but his projects spread throughout the world. Determined to fight global warming through architecture, through his ambitious projects such as Lilypad, a floating city for refugees, Dragonfly, a farm for agriculture in New York, the ecological Tao Zhu Yin Yuan tower in Taipei, inspired by a double helix of DNA, Solar Drop, an underwater garden and, lastly, the Green Arch of the Belgian pavilion, he invites us to discover new ways of ecological living.
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