Estonia’s pavilion, a bright blue cube, is located near the epicentre of EXPO, a few steps away from Al Wasl Plaza. Designed by the award-winning KOKO/MOTOR architecture team, the pavilion will make digital Estonia visual and tangible to all visitors. Estonian filmmaker Martti Helde has joined the design team as a creative storyteller.
Project manager and founder of KOKO Architects Andrus Kõresaar walks us through the pavilion. “The size of the pavilion dictated our approach. We needed to stand out from the colourful patchwork of the EXPO experience. The outside design is a bright blue textile wrap with accents like meteorite flight trajectories, that fly up the sides of the pavilion like unicorns.” Luminophore tubes in the shape of e-Estonia’s main messages enhance the façade.
Digital services bring the government closer to citizens and help them lead an easier life. Kõresaar hopes, that the first emotion of the visitor is a sensation of endlessness. On the floor there’s a path for the visitor to follow and discover Estonia on the screens on the walls. The AI-trained ExpoBot by Alpha Blues on a digital screen can answer most questions about Estonia. A chat version of the ExpoBot is also available online in any language of the world.
Inspired by Eha
Martti Helde, the creative storyteller, makes use of his experience as a film director and dramatist. Helde is foremost a passionate storyteller, who is excited to apply that ability through different multi-disciplinary and digital means.
Helde said his main challenge was to create a story around the five topics of the exhibition and dozens of key messages that would capture the visitor’s attention: “It’s a bit like putting a puzzle together.”
He was inspired by the photo exhibition “Eha” in which London-based Estonian artist Sirli Raitma started taking photographs of her 70-year- old mother in unusual, staged situations and wearing extravagant outfits as a way to heal her mother’s depression. The public success of the series began when two images were selected as part of the Taylor Wessing Prize in 2019. Helde discovered a refreshing approach in Eha – warm humour with a pinch of self-irony.
“I feel that usually we talk about Estonia in a dead serious manner and emphasise the success stories through all sorts of ratings and ranking. It felt right to break this approach and show that we can actually joke about ourselves,” Helde says. In contrast, the large portraits of real people create a feeling of intimate humanity and open up the character for the viewer.
“The first portrait really has to capture the attention of a visitor who has perhaps already seen the exhibitions of a dozen or more pavilions. It is different, intimate and calming at the same time,” he adds.
Eha is the main actor in the first display – an intro to Estonia – and the message is delivered through 5-6 large portraits that alternate on the screen with thematic pictures. The other four topics – digital, smart, innovation and natural – will be each told by a different character, photographed in a similar manner by Renee Altrov. Helde’s ambition is to create one storyline with five very different people covering different aspects of Estonian life.
“We hope that the diverse international audience of EXPO will appreciate the warm self-irony of the story,” says Helde.
Exhibits in action
Having completed the discovery path, the visitor reaches the Taste of Estonia Café. KOKO/MOTOR has designed the simple Nordic interior that is part of the exhibition, as partner companies will present their products “in action”.
ETS NORD has created the core of the café – a sophisticated air-cleaning technology will eliminate all smells and grease in the kitchen. The furniture has been created by Standard, an experienced company that specialises in hospitality furnishings and is regarded for its high-quality woodwork. The dining space stretches along a natural clay wall by UKU – Pure Earth that incorporates the signature patterns of the EXPO design.
The Christmas tree by Adamlights that has been exhibited in Canary Wharf and near Tower Bridge in London will serve as a photo point of the pavilion creating the atmosphere of the Nordic winter. An AI-powered robot bartender called Yanu will be offering a glimpse into the future of busy venues, a contact-less bar in action and will also be serving refreshing drinks from Liviko, one of the largest Baltic companies dealing with quality beverages and also producing Estonia`s signature liqueur Vana Tallinn.
To escape the bustle of EXPO, visitors can relax in Silen’s Mind Spa that has come to life in cooperation with Synctuition – a six-minute-long sound experience in a comfortable recliner that will calm the senses. Silen’s modular spaces have become popular in modern open offices as a way to boost creativity and productivity. Here the booth fills a recreational function.
Kõresaar and Roots estimate that the average visitor will spend just 10 minutes in the pavilion although there is enough interesting content to stay for a lot longer, especially if they make their to the business exposition on the second floor.
Rooms for events and meetings
The second floor is dedicated to business activities and can be entered by appointment and for special events. The Nortal conference room has space for around 50 people. The business expo hall introduces participating companies on digital displays. Two Silen silent work pods can be used for meetings. As a special treat, guests on the business floor can enjoy the supreme sound quality of Estelon loudspeakers that combine excellent engineering and grand design. Tallink – the biggest ferry operator on the Baltic Sea offers a branded lounge for business meetings. The online payment service Pay RND is hosting a smaller meeting lounge.
The classroom of the future created by the leading Estonian furniture manufacturer Standard will demonstrate how classrooms will look in the future. This will be used as a multifunctional workspace to include the Estonian Pavilion’s office as well as a venue for workshops and seminars.
The Estonian Pavilion will have an afterlife beyond the EXPO with retail space on the ground floor and offices on the first floor as ongoing usage of the EXPO buildings has been a core plan of the EXPO Dubai concept.
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