Expo 2020 inspires architect to set up base in Dubai

Carmelo Zappulla is the designer of the Forest of Intelligence at Spain Pavilion.

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Spanish architect Carmello Zapulla. Supplied photos
Spanish architect Carmello Zapulla. Supplied photos

By SM Ayaz Zakir

Published: Sat 19 Mar 2022, 7:34 PM

Last updated: Sun 20 Mar 2022, 6:45 PM

The architect who designed the amazing ‘Forest of Intelligence’ at Spain Pavilion is planning to set up a design studio in Dubai believing that the opportunities are just in abundance.

Carmelo Zappulla, an Italian architect who designed the masterpiece caught up with Khaleej Times while showcasing his masterpiece at the mega event. “I see a lot of opportunities Dubai has to offer, not just in architecture but in every field,” said Zappulla, the founder and Owner of External Reference, based in Barcelona and many other cities across world.

“Dubai will serve as my base for every city in the Middle-East,” added Zapulla.

Commenting on Dubai’s architecture, Zappulla said “the city has got one of the finest architectures in the world, not only in terms of skyscrapers, but also creative installations.”

Zappulla had to undergo three competitions to be selected to show his creative side at the Spanish pavilion. “I had to present something very unique and very creative and yes, my firm won the bid to design the best part of the pavilion, along with Onionlab” he said.

The architect wanted to showcase something that is out of the world. He along with his team experimented with many materials, but were successful with PureTech, a natural compound that captures and mineralises some of the main greenhouse gases and pollutants in our planet’s atmosphere, including CO2, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC).

“The air at Forest of Intelligence is being purified real time due to the materials we have used. It contributes to the protection of the environment using natural resources.”

The showcase is an abstraction of a real forest, artificially created from biodegradable materials, 3D printing and photobioreactors.

The award-winning architect said that these photo-bioreactors containing microalgae, such as spirulina and chlorella contribute to reduction in global warming.

“This will prevent bad consequences of climate change and save nature from harmful effects,” said Zappulla.

“I believe that nature and technology should go hand in hand, and technology should complement nature. Others say that that technology and nature are poles apart, but whatever I develop or work on will be supporting or complementing the Earth,” he added.

The Forest of Intelligence also has a set of advanced technological elements, such as interactive floors, where both public and private Spanish projects related to sustainability are explained. It is Spain’s sustainable 2030 agenda.

Apart from designing the Forest of Intelligence, Zappulla has also created an installation at Expo Dubai 2020 in collaboration with Rami Al Ali for the MENASA platform.

"The project aims to make the craft heritage of the UAE visible through the union with new technologies applied to product design,” Zappulla explained.

Zappulla is no stranger to Dubai. He has been involved in many projects in the city. “The latest project is designing the lobby of a private 5-star hotel in Dubai which will open in a month,” he said.


Highlighting the architecture at the Expo 2020 Dubai, Zappulla said that every creation at the fair is unique, and architects have delivered their masterpieces here. “This is a heaven for architects. Even before winning the bid to showcase my creation at the Expo 2020 Dubai, I was convinced of a great show,” he concluded.

Zappulla is looking forward to starting his studio in the city in coming months.


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