It’s wavy. It’s permeable. It’s landscaped with indigenous plants—no, not Philippine plants, but flora native to Dubai. It’s called Bangkóta, an ancient Tagalog word for “coral reef.”

Finally, the much-awaited renders and details! We have our hands on a 117-page deck with dozens of drawings and diagrams detailing the Philippine pavilion undergoing construction for the World Expo opening on 20 October 2020.

BluPrint Philippine Pavillion World Expo 2020 Dubai
Budji+Royal’s rendering of Bangkóta at night

Read More: A primer on Muhon — Philippine architecture’s Venice debut


“The world’s biggest organism made up of the world’s smallest organisms,” says the deck. “The Philippines as a coral reef. The Filipinos are polyps that grow into colonies, spread out all over the world, connected by travel, migration, and technology.”


The Philippine pavilion will be built on a 3100-square-meter plot of land over three times the size of the original 900-square-meter lot the DTI had planned on using. (In Expo 2020 documentation, they call it the “extra small” lot.) In an interview with Jojo Dass of the Filipino Times last April, Philippine ambassador to the UAE Hjayceelyn Quintana said the World Expo 2020 Dubai Organizing Committee insisted the Philippines take a much larger lot because of the importance to the UAE of the one million Filipinos working there.

BluPrint Philippine Pavillion World Expo 2020 Dubai
The 438-hectare expo site is located in Jebel Ali, the Dubai South district between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, near the Al Maktoum International Airport.


The World Expo 2020 theme is Connecting Minds, Creating the Future, and the 438-hectare (1082-acre) site is divided into three districts with the sub-themes:  Mobility, Opportunity, and Sustainability. The Philippine pavilion is in the Sustainability District, near the pavilions of Canada and Portugal.

The Mobility District is about creating smarter and more productive movement of people, goods and ideas. The Opportunity District pavilions will demonstrate how their countries are committed to unlocking the potential within individuals and communities to shape the future. And the Sustainability District is for communicating how we respect and live in balance with the world we inhabit.

It should be an incredible experience, the largest expo the Middle East Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region has mounted, with 190 countries participating and 25 million expected visitors from outside the UAE arriving during the six-month-long event, from 20 October 2020 to 10 April 2021.

BluPrint Philippine Pavillion World Expo 2020 Dubai
The lot is 3163.25 sqm and the pavilion size is 1,386 sqm.

One of the objectives of the Philippines’ participation in the World Expo 2020 Dubai is country branding. To this end, the creative team has designed the pavilion to project the country as a “creative and compassionate nation.”

The Team

Overall Artistic Direction and Theme Development: Budji+Royal Architecture+Design

Original Content: Marian Roces & Digital Content Creators – film and exhibit installations, literature, history, and music

Gastronomy: Artisanal Café

Crafts: Go Lokal! Marahuyo by Go Lokal

BluPrint Philippine Pavillion World Expo 2020 Dubai
This is the first World Expo where country pavilions are organized, not according to geography, but by theme.

Read more: BUDJI+ROYAL reinterprets vernacular landscapes for Clark International Airport

According to Royal Pineda, the pavilion’s undulating walls recall the shape of bangkóta or coral reefs. They are permeable, made of netting, to represent the idea of connectivity. The DTI briefing reads:


“The outdoor exhibits are meant to organically evolve. Envisioned as a public space, almost like a park, the exhibit is intended to operate organically with nature.

BluPrint Philippine Pavillion World Expo 2020 Dubai
Each country will have its own pavilion, unlike previous World Expos where countries could share a structure.

“Bangkóta is a living coral reef, pulsating with people, movement, activities, flora and water features, all functioning as one global ecosystem.

BluPrint Philippine Pavillion World Expo 2020 Dubai
Apart from country branding, the DTI aims for the Philippine pavilion to promote Philippine trade, tourism, and investments within MEASA, through six months of Business to Business (B2B) activities, fora and conferences, and trade exhibitions.

“A permeable HDPE netting with free form serves as an external coral skeleton, seemingly delicate like our corals, acting as a protective, fertile habitat to treasures of pavilion content.

BluPrint Philippine Pavillion World Expo 2020 Dubai
The total outdoor area comes to 1,268 square meters and the winding path, 385 square meters. The total landscaped area, including water features, comes to 676 square meters.

“The idea of the overall space is for an individual to embark on a journey of discovery and let its natural, unstructured shape lead you to stops exhibiting the nature of the Philippines and introducing precepts like Nature is Peace, Man is Nature, and Variety of the World. This relates to the journey inside the pavilion.

BluPrint Philippine Pavillion World Expo 2020 Dubai
The sheer verticality of the permeable netting shelters visitors from morning and afternoon sun; the only time direct sunlight hits the pavilion grounds is when the sun is overhead.

“It operates and highlights the beauty of the sun and cross-ventilation. It is an outdoor experience, making the pavilion accessible and operational without the need for power.

BluPrint Philippine Pavillion World Expo 2020 Dubai
Instead of importing Philippine plants to green the pavilion, Royal Pineda insisted on using indigenous flora such as desert palm trees, desert marigolds, and species that recall our own calachuchi trees and bougainvillea.

“It then becomes a venue to appreciate light and shadows, widths and heights, breeze and humidity, warm and comfort, raw and refined.”

BluPrint Philippine Pavillion World Expo 2020 Dubai
Inverted trees give visitors a surreal experience of walking through a tropical forest while they experience changes in Philippine weather as they walk down a winding path.


“The visitor plays an active role as he/she creates the narrative sequence by freely navigating the interiors. These spaces are designed to elicit thought and participation. They offer varying levels of immersive experiences through film installations. The visitor becomes part of the story, where digital video production technology and interactive art forms cinematically surround the environment.

“The galleries, carrying the main theme of the bangkóta, will showcase Filipino culture—its history, promise, and progress—in real time, using online portals to channel live updates through the pavilion exhibits.

BluPrint Philippine Pavillion World Expo 2020 Dubai

“The Past, Present, and Future of the Philippines transition chronologically, seamlessly guided by design. The exhibit then goes back to the bankóta principle of fluidity and permeability.

“The arrangement of spaces and openings makes for a simple yet practical and creative solution to managing flow and sunlight. Controlling the amount of light coming into the space creates an interesting play of light and shadow that adds intensified drama and mood to the experience.”

Eight areas of the pavilion:

Area 1 – Nature is peace: Experience the tropical forest

Area 2 – Man is Nature: How Philippine history evolved and lived in harmony with nature

Area 3 – Variety of the World: Many cultural traits, one identity, connected all over the world

Area 4 – The making of Bangkóta: Origin stories of the pieces and installations

Area 5 – Go Lokal! Marahuyo: Store selling items made exclusively for Expo 2020

Area 6 – The Ramp: The end of the exhibit; a moment for reflection and enjoyment of the garden on the roof deck

Area 7 – The Plaza: Filipino culture through performance

Area 8 – Artisanal Café: Eat with your hands in a pristine environment of mangrove trees

DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez, Royal Pineda, and Marian Roces are holding a press conference on June 11th to present the creative team’s plans for the Philippine pavilion and construction timetable. Watch out for updates and new renders!

Read More: Tensions and Intersections: The Philippine pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2018

Download this month's BLUPRINT magazine digital copy from:
Subscribe via [email protected]