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Es Devlin reveals timber UK Pavilion integrating AI to create poem at Dubai Expo 2020

United Arab Emirates Architecture News - Sep 29, 2021 - 15:05   2715 views

Es Devlin reveals timber UK Pavilion integrating AI to create poem at Dubai Expo 2020

Award-winning British artist and stage designer Es Devlin has revealed her cross-laminated timber UK Pavilion at the Dubai Expo 2020 which will open to the public on 1 October 2021 and the Expo will be running until 31 March 2022 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Called Poem Pavilion, Devlin designed a pavilion as a "social sculpture" and to act as an "expression of cultural inclusivity" for the UK.

The pavilion is shaped like a giant wooden conical musical instrument, and it gathers words donated by each visitor and uses an advanced machine learning algorithm to generate a cumulative collective poem which illuminates its 20-metre diameter facade.

Es Devlin is the first woman to design the UK Pavilion since the inception of Expo in 1851.

Es Devlin reveals timber UK Pavilion integrating AI to create poem at Dubai Expo 2020

Devlin conceived the building to interpret Britain as a cultural gathering place, a meeting and melding of ideas and languages from across the globe. 

The cone-shaped pavilion reflects the words donated by visitors while the words are generated by using AI (artificial intelligence) onto it its front façade in Arabic and English - the words are enlightened at night to mark the pavilion for visitors. 

Es Devlin reveals timber UK Pavilion integrating AI to create poem at Dubai Expo 2020

"Twenty five million visitors are projected to pass through Expo during its six month run, and each will be invited to donate a word at the ‘mouthpiece’ of the pavilion, then enter within the heart of the instrument where they will be surrounded by donated words glimmering in illuminated Arabic and English, underscored by a soundscape gathered from multicultural choirs across the UK," stated in a press release.

"As visitors emerge through the facade of the pavilion, they will pass through the 20-metre diameter composition of collective text: a new poem generated every minute."

"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," said Es Devlin.

Es Devlin reveals timber UK Pavilion integrating AI to create poem at Dubai Expo 2020

"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," Devlin added.

Devlin has closely worked on this project with structural engineers Atelier One, environmental design consultants Atelier Ten, executive architects Veretec and creative agency Avantgarde

Es Devlin reveals timber UK Pavilion integrating AI to create poem at Dubai Expo 2020

Guided by the engineers’ expertise in sustainable construction, the design team chose cross laminated timber as the pavilion’s main material. 

The cross laminated timber was sourced from sustainably managed European forests in Austria and Italy and championed by engineers as a sustainable alternative to concrete and steel, the cross laminated timber is crafted around LED tiles engineered in Belgium and manufactured in China, installed by local British and UAE teams. 

Es Devlin reveals timber UK Pavilion integrating AI to create poem at Dubai Expo 2020

For the poetry that generates algorithm on the structure, this technique was devised by creative technologists in California. "The pavilion has been conceived as an expression of cultural inclusivity and its execution is a feat of European and international collaboration," added a press statement. 

Devlin’s exploration of machine generated poetry began with PoemPortraits at the Serpentine Gallery in 2016 in response to curator Hans Ulrich Obrist’s invitation to consider the idea of a ‘social sculpture’. 

Es Devlin reveals timber UK Pavilion integrating AI to create poem at Dubai Expo 2020

In 2017 she continued her explorations at the Victoria & Albert Museum, turning their annual artist-conceived Christmas tree into a ‘collective carol’. 

In 2018 visitors fed words into the mouth of one of the lions in Trafalgar Square and watched the collective text projected up the length of Nelsons column.

Es Devlin reveals timber UK Pavilion integrating AI to create poem at Dubai Expo 2020

As stated in a press releases, the text generated by the Poem Pavilion uses a machine learning model called GPT-2, a large language model defined by 1.5 billion parameters. 

GPT-2 was originally trained on a broad spectrum of internet text, and for this project it was fine-tuned on a diverse and carefully curated selection of over five thousand poems—comprising over two hundred thousand lines of poetry refined over months of iterative feedback from a diverse team of poetry curators.

Es Devlin reveals timber UK Pavilion integrating AI to create poem at Dubai Expo 2020

Es Devlin reveals timber UK Pavilion integrating AI to create poem at Dubai Expo 2020

Es Devlin reveals timber UK Pavilion integrating AI to create poem at Dubai Expo 2020

Es Devlin reveals timber UK Pavilion integrating AI to create poem at Dubai Expo 2020

Es Devlin reveals timber UK Pavilion integrating AI to create poem at Dubai Expo 2020

Es Devlin reveals timber UK Pavilion integrating AI to create poem at Dubai Expo 2020

Es Devlin reveals timber UK Pavilion integrating AI to create poem at Dubai Expo 2020

Es Devlin reveals timber UK Pavilion integrating AI to create poem at Dubai Expo 2020

Es Devlin's design for the UK Pavilion was selected from the shortlisted design entries, including BDP, Mangera Yvars Architects, Paul Cocksedge Studio, Steven Chilton Architects and Tonkin Liu.

All images © Alin Consstantin, courtesy of Es Devlin.

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