Empathy Pavilion: Expo 2020

Dubai, UAE
Architecture (new construction)
Gallery, lab, workshop, theater, auditorium
129,000 sf
Credit List:
Höweler + Yoon Architecture, Eric Höweler, J. Meejin Yoon, Elle Gerdeman, David Hamm, Tod Machover, Opera of the Future Group, MIT Media Lab

The Empathy Pavilion for Dubai Expo 2020 is a Living Lab for the ongoing study of Empathy, where guests act simultaneously as researchers, participants, and performers. The immersive, interactive experience is created by Tod Machover and the Opera of the Future Group of the MIT Media. 

Positioned adjacent to the main circular plaza on one of two large parks, the building will occupy one of the most prominent sites at the Expo. The building includes a 300-person capacity exhibition gallery on the ground floor, several smaller lab and workshop spaces on the second floor, and a 300-person black box theater on the uppermost floor. Reflecting the Expo’s theme of Connecting Minds, Creating the Future, the Empathy Lab is conceived of as a choreographed sequence of experiences around the art and science of Empathy for all demographics. The experiences combine spatial, lighting, and auditory elements to encourage visitors to interact and share experiences with one another. The design of the interior sequence of spaces and experiences are integrally tied to both the cognitive progression of Empathy and the spatial and structural design of the building.

Internally, the building is organized as an upward synthetic progression of performances, exhibitions, installations, and laboratories innovative in their relation to Empathy, in its research, outreach and study. Externally, the principal expression is both programmatic and thermally strategic. A cascading promenade of self-shaded voids provide naturally cooled public space to conclude the choreographed experience and for guests to linger. The voids are designed to house open air events, concerts, or talks as well as cafes and informal programs, each vertically activating the adjacent central plaza of the Expo. The Empathy Pavilion acts as a timely medium for collective exchange; a building designed for unprecedented casual and calibrated discourse.

Following the close of Expo 2020 Dubai, the pavilion will be reprogrammed for a permanent Legacy use as performance and exhibition, or performance and educational laboratory.