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Werner Sobek-designed 2.7-kilometre-long retractable textile covers the Expo 2020 Dubai promenade

United Arab Emirates Architecture News - Oct 27, 2021 - 13:12   1150 views

Werner Sobek-designed 2.7-kilometre-long retractable textile covers the Expo 2020 Dubai promenade

German architect and structural engineer Werner Sobek has designed a 2.7-kilometre-long retractable textile covering the Expo 2020 Dubai promenade. 

Called i-Mesh, the project was created in collaboration with i-Mesh, a young company from the Marche region of Italy, and made from an innovative textile fiber in Italy with lightness and technology, acting as a screen between land and sky.

Covering a total of 52,500 square meters area, the high-tech, green, textile material is better performing, more sustainable, and more versatile for the local climate.

Werner Sobek-designed 2.7-kilometre-long retractable textile covers the Expo 2020 Dubai promenade

As the company explained, i-Mesh flourished in a sandstorm resistance test, remaining intact without ripping thanks to the strength and flexibility of its fibers, soft material, and well-calibrated weight.

The theme of Expo 2020, which is taking place from October 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022 in Dubai, is "Connecting Minds, Creating the Future," a philosophy also shared by Alberto Fiorenzi, the founder of i-Mesh. 

Werner Sobek-designed 2.7-kilometre-long retractable textile covers the Expo 2020 Dubai promenade

Starting from his experience in the aerospace and nautical sectors, he has created a new, highly-performing material for architecture, conceived from the viewpoint of circularity and maximum customization.

i-Mesh allows imagining a new architectural paradigm. A type of soft architecture which designs softer, more flexible, versatile spaces that focus on human beings and their well-being. Inclusive and welcoming spaces, they “react” to the real needs of people, ensuring visual and environmental comfort. i-Mesh is the thread that binds everything, a "touch" material that has found its most important expressive manifestation at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Werner Sobek-designed 2.7-kilometre-long retractable textile covers the Expo 2020 Dubai promenade

An ethereal, translucent "cloud" hanging between land and sky that protects from the heat during the day and transforms into a projection screen at night. 

The fabric features the distinctive patterns of a modern "Mashrabiya," the latticework traditionally used in the architecture of Arab countries.

Werner Sobek-designed 2.7-kilometre-long retractable textile covers the Expo 2020 Dubai promenade

This is how the i-Mesh covers of Expo 2020 Dubai designed by the German studio Werner Sobek, which chose to use this innovative Made in Italy material for their project, can be described. It is a poetic “see through” effect made possible by the lightness and transparency of this technical fabric.

Applied on a large urban scale for the first time, i-Mesh covers the main walkways connecting the areas of Expo 2020 Dubai. It does not block the view of the sky nor the passage of air, but instead repels solar radiation, providing a feeling of comfort while maintaining a pleasant microclimate. 

Werner Sobek-designed 2.7-kilometre-long retractable textile covers the Expo 2020 Dubai promenade

Werner Sobek's idea was to recreate the intimate and familiar character of a retractable pergola, but with significant dimensions: an idea that i-Mesh allowed him to transform into reality.

"The Dubai Shade Structures perfectly embody the combination of lightweight construction, innovation and design that we seek out in all our projects," according to Werner Sobek, who has designed a structure that is both light and robust thanks to the highly engineered solutions and advanced technologies adopted. The result is an innovative project from multiple points of view.

Werner Sobek-designed 2.7-kilometre-long retractable textile covers the Expo 2020 Dubai promenade

The project is the first canopy made of only 3 per cent of waste virgin material

Collaborating with i-Mesh allowed him to build the largest retractable cover ever made. It is the first canopy produced with only 3 per cent waste of virgin material, compared to the standard 25 per cent of the textile industry. It is also the first time that a start-up has been awarded an order in an Expo project.

According to the team, the challenge was to create 2.7 kilometers of retractable covers for a total 52,500 square meters of i-Mesh, all without transverse support beams. 

Werner Sobek-designed 2.7-kilometre-long retractable textile covers the Expo 2020 Dubai promenade

This eliminated the need for 30 kilometers of extruded aluminum, thereby avoiding the emission of 31 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. i-Mesh was designed to entirely be reusable. 

"This means that when the Universal Exposition is over, a large part of the fabric used for the covers will remain on site as a permanent installation, while other parts can be reused in another city context, according to a logic of zero waste," said the team.

Werner Sobek-designed 2.7-kilometre-long retractable textile covers the Expo 2020 Dubai promenade

"The Expo 2020 Dubai project is the result of a long study, in which the solutions were "certified" by a calculation system specially created in collaboration with the Polytechnic Institute of Milan."

i-Mesh is composed of two elements: six types of fibers - including four minerals - and a thermoplastic polymer whose properties remain intact during the industrial process. This means that it can be separated from the fibers during recycling operations.

Werner Sobek-designed 2.7-kilometre-long retractable textile covers the Expo 2020 Dubai promenade

The fabric is a patented, light, extremely resistant technical fabric that can be installed, stored, and disassembled with great ease. It can also be reused several times in various ways.

It is produced exclusively in custom-made panels, according to a zero waste logic. It is a circular product, but also an entirely customizable material. In fact, every i- Mesh pattern is created based on the specific needs of the designer.

Werner Sobek-designed 2.7-kilometre-long retractable textile covers the Expo 2020 Dubai promenade

i-Mesh can be used both indoors and outdoors. It can be used indoors to make high- tech curtains, vertical dividers, false ceilings, skylights, and tapestries. 

Outdoors, it instead filters and reflects solar radiation, allowing the passage of light while at the same time guaranteeing thermal and visual comfort. 

Werner Sobek-designed 2.7-kilometre-long retractable textile covers the Expo 2020 Dubai promenade

The total freedom of customization in terms of both pattern and design is undoubtedly the greatest advantage of i-Mesh: in fact, there is no standard weave in its production. 

"I-Mesh is a material that is entirely free from the constraints of traditional weaving, always generating new emotions and expressive forms," explained Alberto Fiorenzi.

Werner Sobek-designed 2.7-kilometre-long retractable textile covers the Expo 2020 Dubai promenade

The Expo 2020 Dubai can be considered a successful bet, but Alberto Fiorenzi is already looking to the future with the idea that i-Mesh can become, "The paradigm for a new way of doing architecture to design flexible and versatile spaces for people and their well-being. A soft architecture that provides sustainable and customizable solutions and leaves less and less of a trace on the planet."

The project was realized with i-Mesh, Werner Sobek, Dubai-based steel fabricator Cleveland Bridge Middle East and Italian machine shop Lanaro Srl.

Werner Sobek-designed 2.7-kilometre-long retractable textile covers the Expo 2020 Dubai promenade

Werner Sobek-designed 2.7-kilometre-long retractable textile covers the Expo 2020 Dubai promenade

Werner Sobek-designed 2.7-kilometre-long retractable textile covers the Expo 2020 Dubai promenade

Werner Sobek-designed 2.7-kilometre-long retractable textile covers the Expo 2020 Dubai promenade

Werner Sobek-designed 2.7-kilometre-long retractable textile covers the Expo 2020 Dubai promenade

Werner Sobek-designed 2.7-kilometre-long retractable textile covers the Expo 2020 Dubai promenade

Werner Sobek-designed 2.7-kilometre-long retractable textile covers the Expo 2020 Dubai promenade

Werner Sobek-designed 2.7-kilometre-long retractable textile covers the Expo 2020 Dubai promenade

Expo 2020 Dubai opened on 1 October, 2021 under strict pandemic conditions and will be running until 31 March 2022 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates under the theme of "Connecting Minds, Creating the Future", with three sub-themes Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability.

You can see WAC's comprehensive coverage about other pavilions on WAC's United Arab Emirates Country Page.  

All images courtesy of i-Mesh.

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