The Netherlands Pavilion at Expo 2020 is not just a building, it’s a biotope. No, I had no idea what that was either until we visited! A Biotope basically mean a “place of life” and the Netherlands have embraced this philosophy creating a self sustainable harvesting machine. It’s a closed loop system meaning it creates its own energy, water and food.
The building is built with steel sourced from local suppliers which will be returned to them at the end of Expo. Or from natural materials which can eventually be returned to nature. Using SunGlacier technology the pavilion extracts 800 litres of water each day from the air and uses this to irrigate the edible plants being grown on the biotope. Solar Energy also provides all the energy to keep the pavilion operational. It really showcases new technologies that could be implemented in the future to help grow food and create sustainable living in increasingly harsh environments.
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What to expect at the Netherlands pavilion Expo 2020
Yep, this all sounds very complicated but what does it actually feel like to visit the Netherlands Pavilion. You begin by heading down a slope, further into the ground where is is noticeably cooler and darker than the harsh outside of the Dubai desert. This is your first view of the plant covered cone of the Netherlands biotope. This is a brilliant vertical farm with edible leaves coating the outside and mushrooms growing on the inside.
Here you’ll be given large white umbrellas and invited into the cone itself. Here you’ll raise your umbrellas and the show begins. It’s a stunning multimedia presentation, with lights and colours projected onto the white brollies, it gave me goosebumps looking at our group, arms in the air watching their own and each others. This show explains the technical innovations required to create the project. You can focus on this or just enjoy the show. It is accompanied by the rich scent of Dutch soil which is very earthy and really adds to the experience.
The show finishes with a column of “rain” falling from the tip of the cone. You won’t get wet – the umbrellas are for the lights rather than the water.
Read next: Everything you need to know about visiting Expo 2020.
Eating at The Netherlands Pavilion
As you exit the biotope cone you’ll enter a spacious cafe and gift shop area. Here you can buy traditional Dutch treats. Piper tried a delicious Stroopwaffle which took us straight back to our time in Utrecht and Amsterdam. I opted for a super strong coffee which was exactly what I needed to keep me going around the rest of Expo. You can also sample some water from the biotope and there are heaps of veggie options on offer.
What did we learn at the Pavilion
The overriding message was one of possibility. That it is possible to create life in some of the harshest environments. I never knew it was possible to extract a usable amount of water from the air and it made us increasingly excited about inner-city farming and the need to continue to develop this.
Where to get your passport stamped
At the end of the presentation you’ll find the small gift shop and cafe. You can get your passport stamped here.
Where is the Netherlands Pavilion at Expo 2020
The Netherlands Pavilion is located in the sustainability district at Expo 2020. Enter the Dubai Conference centre through the main entrance, walk through the Al Wasl dome and keep going. You’ll find the pavilion on your right. Opposite Terra.
What were the queues like
The Netherlands has a smart queueing system so you can prebook your time slot and walk straight in. We visited at lunchtime on a Tuesday and had to wait around two minutes. It didn’t feel long at all.
Another excellent pavilion focusing on urban sustainability is the Singapore Pavilion. you can’t miss it, it’s right next to the Netherlands and covered in greenery. And definitely check out Terra Sustainability Pavilion for an amazing science museum focussed on the future of our planet.