Reconnect Slovenia

Slovenia's forested Expo pavilion is shaded by a giant wooden parasol

Words by Amarachi Orie, video by Ana De Oliva, CNNUpdated 7th February 2022
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(CNN) — Near one of the three entrances to Dubai's World Expo, where more than 190 countries are showcasing their cultural heritage and latest technological innovations, is Slovenia's "floating green oasis." The country's pavilion is intended as an emblem of a tech-driven, sustainable future. Slovenia is a country rich in forest, rivers, lakes and freshwater springs -- and the design of its pavilion draws on these.
Located in the Sustainability District, the pavilion is surrounded by water that cools the air in Dubai's hot desert climate. Raised above the water, stretching up from the exterior of the first floor, a forest façade of 45,000 living plants creates the sense of a tree canopy.
The greenery is made of local vegetation and planted in wet insulating panels, which protect against heat, according to Magnet Design, the company that conceptualized the pavilion's "green and smart experience." The combination of plants, water and wood creates its own microclimate.
Around 60% of Slovenia is covered in forests and wood has been an important part of the country's economy for centuries. The southern Slovenian town of Ribnica was home to entrepreneurs who designed and exported traditional wood-rimmed tools for sifting flour, such as the Ribniško sieve, as long as 400 years ago. The pavilion's lead architect Robert Klun is from Ribnica, and in tribute to its history, the pavilion is topped by a wooden parasol that resembles a sieve.
"Our idea was that we would point it out that we respect what Slovenia is today," says Janez Škrabec, the Ribnica-born CEO of Riko, the engineering company behind the pavilion's construction. "That we respect our nature, that we respect our history, our culture, and that we, on the other hand, are (a) very modern nation that cares about our climate, that cares about environment and that we would like to improve the world."