Project Specifications

  • Project Name: The Poem Pavilion
  • Project Architect: Es Devlin
  • Project Location: Dubai Expo 2020
  • Structural Engineer: Atelier One
  • Environmental Design Consultant: Atelier Ten
  • Executive Architect: Veretec
  • Creative Agency: Avantgarde

UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai by Es Devlin is a giant wooden structure taking the conical form of a musical instrument. This structure that can be perceived as a sculpture honours the diversity and collaboration of different cultures coming together. Highlighting the UK as a land of various cultures and amazing ideas, this pavilion transforms the input into AI-generated collective poems.

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The Poem Pavilion with help of machine learning algorithms converts the input from the guests into poems. These poems can be read through the displays placed on the facade that transforms this structure into one of the exhibits itself.

Stephen Hawking’s project named ‘Breakthrough Message’ was the inspirational factor while designing this structure. Using Artificial Intelligence, the contributed words by visitors are collected and spelt out as poems on the 20 m tall facade.

The Mouthpiece located in the central space of the structure welcomes guests to make a donation of one word. The central area showcases the contributed words in Arabic and English and is accompanied by the soundscape. A data algorithm composes these words into meaningful texts, and every one minute, a new collective poem is generated.

The digital model was first trained based on the texts available on the internet and later was incorporated in the project with a selection of 5000 poems curated by a poetry curator team.

UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai AI-Generated Collective Poems

The structure is composed of CLT (cross-laminated timber) with wood obtained from Italian and Austrian forests managed on sustainability principles. The form and design of structure display multiple cultures with various elements designed and sourced from different parts of the world. The LED elements are a design of Belgium, manufactured in China with its algorithm developed in California.

“Algorithms are among us, they are an ever-growing part of our culture, their output is based on what they are trained on and who trains them. The pavilion is at once an expression of the ideal of a culturally diverse Britain that I grew up with, tempered with our growing awareness of the part algorithms play in shaping the future of our culture”, mentioned Es Devlin.

The concept behind this design was to express Britain as the converging point for various cultures that attract visitors from around the globe. The structure is a product of efficient collaboration between a team of architects, designers, engineers, and technical professionals. 

The performative structure operating with artificial intelligence is a pavilion in the form of a cone with protruding slats extending outwards from the central point. These rows of extending slats altogether form a round facade where the poems are displayed with LED.

The poems recited in English, French, Chinese, and Arabic, the aim is to impart a feeling of unification despite different cultures and lifestyles. 

UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai AI-Generated Collective Poems

“Poetry brings order to language, and machine-learning is a way to weave our voices together without prejudice while following the rhythms of centuries of poetic thought in a range of diverse cultures,” stated Devlin

The pavilion is accessed below the cone through a Maze of Aspiration which is well-illuminated. The exhibition enhanced with augmented reality transforms the queue into a maze. This is a smart way of entertaining and educating visitors during their exploration period. They come across the UK’s advancement in the field of artificial intelligence and technological gains in space science. 

The poems generated on the facade of Poem Pavilion are done with the help of GPT-2, which is a machine learning model with 1.5 billion parameters defining its language model. This system was finely tuned over selected poems that comprise over a hundred thousand lines of poems. 

Accommodated in the Opportunity district, this UK pavilion is a result of a team of structural engineers- Atelier One, a group of environmental design consultants- Atelier Ten, architect- Veretec, and a creative vision by the creative agency- Avantgarde.

Devlin’s interests in machine-generated poems can be marked from the poem portraits in Serpentine Gallery, 2016 as a response to Hans Ulrich Obrist’s invitation to perceive the concept of A Social Sculpture. This passion further continued in 2017 which could be seen in the choral installation of Victoria and Albert Museum where the yearly artist-designed Christmas tree was transformed into a collective carol.

Poetry can be perceived as the most personal and influencing form of expression. Based and composed on the words provided by users, The Poem Pavilion is a creative way that promotes the idea of Storydoing than Storytelling. It invites people from around the world who desire to make a difference.

UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai AI-Generated Collective Poems

The participation and contribution of the guests serve them with a unique experience and a sense of ownership. Artificial Intelligence is gaining popularity among creative fields. It serves as the next-gen tool for creative yet science-oriented designs.

Though the poems displayed on this LED facade cannot replace the essence of written poems, they can still prove to be useful in exchanging ideas, thoughts, and to an extent, teaching poetry.

The pavilion welcomes the donation of words that describe life on earth. This pavilion displays a message that may be perceived as powerful and strong for the diversity of people with different cultures, styles, and mindsets.

The UK pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai marks the first one being designed by a female designer. Led by a predominantly womens’ team, this pavilion addresses the poor representation of females in the field of engineering, arts, math, science, and technology. 

Apart from this social message, the wise selection of sustainable materials spread awareness amongst the society about the urgency required to minimize the harmful impacts on the natural environment.

UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai AI-Generated Collective Poems
UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai AI-Generated Collective Poems
UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai AI-Generated Collective Poems
UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai AI-Generated Collective Poems
UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai AI-Generated Collective Poems
UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai AI-Generated Collective Poems


The fusion of creativity and technology in this project guided by poetry is an uncommon approach in designing. This is a remarkable example of a design that brings together various disciplines like art, science, and literature together to form a structure that speaks for itself.

The structure talks to the visitors and conveys a strong message through its lit facade. It successfully brings together different cultures and thoughts which are unified with the messages that come up every minute.

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