The Poem Pavilion

British designer’s Stephen Hawking-influenced structure will use artificial intelligence to generate poetry.

  • Words: Rachel Halliburton
  • Photography: Es Devlin Studios

Es Devlin – who has made her name designing everything from intimate theatre productions at the Donmar to a giant pink tongue for Miley Cyrus – has been selected to create the UK Pavilion for the 2020 Dubai Expo. For those who have watched her stratospheric ascent since she started working in theatre more than twenty years ago, it is no surprise that Devlin has become the first woman to be accorded this honour.

The pavilion will be ‘a collective global project that showcases British expertise in AI, technologies and poetry while transcending national identities.’ Image: Es Devlin Studios

She has cited Stephen Hawking as the overarching influence for her design, which is called Poem Pavilion and will use artificial intelligence to generate poetry. ‘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,’ she said.

The idea draws directly on one of Stephen Hawking's final projects, ‘Breakthrough Message’. Image: Es Devlin Studios

The UK’s Department of Individual Trade is supporting the project, which she will construct in collaboration with design studios Avantgarde, Atelier One and Atelier Ten. Devlin, who has also created set designs for London’s Olympic Closing Ceremony in 2012 and several fashion shows, declared that the pavilion would be ‘a place where visitors from all over the world chose to take part in a collective global project that showcases British expertise in AI, technologies and poetry while transcending national identities.’

The pavilion will be constructed in collaboration with design studios Avantgarde, Atelier One and Atelier Ten. Image: Es Devlin Studios

One of Devlin’s most recent designs was a red fluorescent lion for the London Design Festival in Trafalgar Square, which used the latest machine learning technology to display lines of poetry on an LED screen inside its mouth. Poem Pavilion will be multilingual, and will be seen by over 25 million visitors during the six months of the Expo.

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