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.

Articles

Further Reading

Rolex Deep Sea Special

In one of the greatest adventures in horological history, Captain Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard took the 1960 Rolex Deep Sea Special 10,916 metres below the sea.

Change in the Valley

Photographer Matilda Temperley has been documenting the lives of tribal peoples in the Omo Valley, Ethiopia, since 2007. She reflects on how modernisation here often comes at the expense of the inhabitants.

Laos: Escaping Mordor

Richard Waters on risking his life to chase the story of the Hmong people, persecuted since their fight against communism in the Secret War.

The Big Blue

Three-time world record-breaking freediver Guillaume Néry ranks Neil Armstrong among his heroes. He talks about the joys of defying gravity and his quest for the perfect dive.

Up Close: Geothermal

A bird's-eye view reveals the Cerro Prieto Geothermal Field, Mexicali, Mexico - one of the biggest geothermal plants in the world - as it has never been seen before.

The Essentials: Mark Beaumont

Last September the long-distance cyclist broke the record for cycling around the world. Here he gives an inventory of the kit that sustained him through his most challenging expedition.
Browse by Category