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Dubai says “konnichiwa” to Japanese Pavilion
by Muhammad Yusuf December 06, 2018
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Expo 2020 Dubai (Oct. 20, 2020 - Apr. 10, 2021) has offered participants the choice of either building their own pavilions or rent them from organisers. Japan had decided to build its own pavilion. 

Revealing details of the Japan Pavilion at a press conference, Japan External Trade Organisation (Jetro) projected a space that pays homage to Arabic design and culture, with Japanese aesthetics.

“With the key word “Connect” (“Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” is the Expo theme) we will communicate to the world a clear vision of our potential in leading a future society based on the spirit, techniques, culture and other elements unique to Japan”, say the people behind the pavilion.

It is a “Crosspoint for the future” which appeals to visitors to “Join. Sync. Act”. This is being achieved through its architecture and design concept, emphasising the connection and crosspoint of the Middle East and Japan, through the legendary Silk Road.

A model of the pavilion was shown, which has a 3D lattice façade that covers it with Arabesque and Japanese Asanoha patterns. Asanoha is a common and versatile Japanese motif.

Named for the asa (hemp) plant, its origins are entirely geometric (comprised of six diamonds) and as such, is considered a seasonless geometric design.

Asanoha can be combined with virtually any other motif, depending on seasonality, formality, etc. It was often used as a motif on items for babies, as parents hoped that infants wearing it would develop the vigour and toughness of the hemp plant.

The pavilion will show different faces, depending on the angle and time of sunlight. The Japanese aesthetic expression of light and shadow, valued since ancient times, find full play. The 3D lattice and the cubic tent structure are designed to express a variety of light and shadow, as well as functions of shade and breeze. In addition, the softness of the façade will be expressed by the cubic tent fluttering in the wind.

The pavilion will also carry a contemporary Japanese version of water and wind. The interior environment system will be made comfortable with the cycle of water. The architectural space, with cozy design, will help air flow or the wind. The pavilion itself is aimed to be an environmentally conscious device, with a sustainable plan.

In “Join”, visitors will experience “Omotenashi”, or Japanese hospitality, in a tea salon like atmosphere, where one is welcomed equally, beyond status or boundary. Different nationalities, ages, preferences and tastes will get together and take a step toward getting to know each other.

“Sync” is where visitors will explore a large unique space, experiencing the world’s big challenges, using their five senses with a goal of stimulating thoughts on how to resolve them. Visitors will not only encounter the latest Japanese technologies, but will synchronise with Japanese traditions, culture, arts and similar things.

Visitors from various backgrounds and thoughts will “Act” and have the chance to find possibilities of co-creation to face challenges. They will realise everyone feels the same way, when confronted by changes and challenges.

To sum up, entrants to the pavilion will be entertained and informed in an immersive high-tech space, presenting Japanese interpretations of water, wind and light, leading them to experience a world of problem solving and resolutions, based on people, ideas and technologies.

Other highlights:

* Events: It will be a workshop experience, merging modern technology and traditional principles of design

* Cuisine: Co-creation of fusion recipes by Japanese culinary art and local food

* Presentations: It will showcase a diverse range of fashion, fusing different cultures and materials.

Principal Architect Yuko Nagayama of Yuko Nagayama Associates, the main creator of the pavilion, spoke to Time Out about the building.

Born in Tokyo, she established the Yuko Nagayama Building Design in 2002. A designer of many remarkable buildings and a winner of many awards, the honours she has won include Nakanoshima Shinkansen Station Planning Design Competition Excellence Award (2004) and the Tokyo Metropolitan Architecture Award Excellence Award “Goddess Forest Central Garden” (2018).

Over to Nagayama:

* What are the challenges in building in a desert environment?

The difficult challenge is keeping off the heat and creating a comfortable space. The solution in this case is applied to the facade/architecture structure for this project.

* What materials are you using in construction?

The facade is composed of steel and membrane. The architecture is steel construction. 

* What aspects of Arab/Muslim culture attract you most?

I am interested in arabesque and beautiful architectural styles. Creation in abstract forms and the Muslim worldview are extremely profound to me as well.

* Are there common factors between Japanese and Arab cultures?

I found commonality in Japanese patterns and Arabesque and used it as a motif of the architecture. The natural world has influenced Japanese patterns. The geometric patterns (of arabesque) have mathematical aspects. The abstracted natural forms of both (arabesque and nature) have deep connotations. I think the Arabesque depicts the universal Islamic worldview in the motif of nature.

* What is the message of your building for Expo 2020 Dubai?

New ideas come from a combination of Japanese and Arabic cultures, which have deep, past connections. By connecting past wisdom to newer generations through the use of new architectural styles, it is possible to push onwards towards the future. 

* How many people can the pavilion accommodate at one time?

Five hundred people.

* How has it been divided into office, shopping, exhibition, public and other spaces?

It is divided into four stories. The first floor has a restaurant. The second and third floors are for exhibitions. The fourth floor is VIP space. Outside the pavilion, there is space on water for floating events.

* Who are the architects who have influenced you in your work?

My ex-boss Japanese architect Aoki Jun and Herzog & de Meuron.

* Can you tell us something of how many trips you made to the site and what were your learning experiences during the trips?  

When I was a student, I stayed in Abu Dhabi for one month. In July, I visited the site after I was selected as an architect for Dubai Expo. It was on this visit that I thought I would like to use a wind-catcher and water for this project.

* Has the fact that both Japan and the UAE are located by the sea made an impact on your work for the Expo 2020 Dubai building?

This time, water is the one of the most significant factors. For the both countries, water is an integral part of their culture. In Japan, we gain benefits from the ocean but are threatened by it sometimes as well.

The Japanese unique spirituality is in co-existence with ocean. Japanese technology also contributes to the desalination system in the UAE!

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