Designing the UK Expo Pavilion has become a much-coveted gig in recent years. Thomas Heatherwick’s Seed Cathedral for 2010 went a long way to establishing his international reputation, while Asif Khan and Brian Eno are among previous designers to create pavilions.
Devlin becomes the first woman to get the commission since the UK Pavilion’s inception in 1851. She and her team will collaborate on the project, titled The Poem Pavilion, with brand experience agency Avantgarde and Manchester-based engineers Atelier One and Atelier Ten.
The pavilion will feature a 20 metre-high LED façade that will beam out an AI-generated global ‘Message to Space’. The idea is that each of the Expo’s 25 million visitors will be invited to contribute to this message. “The idea draws directly on one of Stephen Hawking’s final projects, Breakthrough Message, a global competition that Hawking and his colleagues conceived in 2015 inviting people worldwide to consider what message we would communicate to express ourselves as a planet, should we one day encounter other advanced civilizations in space,” Devlin says. “What if the UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 becomes a place where visitors from all over the world take part in a collective global project that showcases British expertise in AI technologies and poetry while transcending national identities?”
Commenting on the fact that she is the first woman to design the UK Expo Pavilion, Devlin says, “We urgently need to address the underrepresentation of women in STEAM occupations. I’ve learned from my collaboration with the theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli, that the evolution of scientific thought is often through the contribution of artists, musicians and philosophers as well as physicists. My hope is that the fusion of architecture, poetry, music and science in this female-led project will attract and inspire girls and young women to investigate areas of science and technology that they might otherwise have felt weren’t for them.”