External Reference - Spanish Pavilion Exhibition, an experiential didactic journey
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Spanish Pavilion Exhibition, an experiential didactic journey

External Reference

Special Projects  /  Completed
External Reference

Only a distributed intelligence and universal awareness about the environmental crises we are living through can move this world toward a new sustainable life. Based on this, the Spanish exhibition is centered on the relationship between sustainability and collective intelligence. These concepts are transformed into an experiential didactic journey, breaking the boundaries between design, art, and digital tools. On the one hand, visitors will grasp the richness of the Spanish cultural legacy and on the other hand, they will get a deep understanding of natural biodiversity, the innovation in scientific and business research, and the Spanish commitment to sustainable development. The ground floor consists of a cluster of open plazas where a series of installations take place. We synthesize some of the most relevant contributions of Spanish culture to the World and highlight its relationship with the Arab culture. These diverse plazas are delimited by circular murals, which contextualize and deepen the narrative thread of the exhibition. The visitor will be offered a tour of some of the Spanish cultural milestones, from the Hispano-Arab legacy of chess and the Spanish overseas expeditions to the importance of Spanish as a global language, passing through the heritage of Arab architecture in Spain and the pioneering work of the Nobel prize neurologist Ramón y Cajal. Finally, they emerge into a techno-forest, that we see as a laboratory of the future, in other words, a high-tech forest named “Bosque de la Inteligencia/Intelligent Forest”. The trees of the forest have been manufactured by 3D printing PLA, a bioplastic polymer made with corn dextrose (sugar), mixed with PureTech a natural mineral compound that has the property of capturing and mineralizing some of the main gases of the greenhouse effect and pollutants that we find in the atmosphere, CO2, nitrogen oxides (NOx), and volatile organic compounds (VOC). This landscape is capable of producing oxygen and food through photosynthesis, a series of photo-bioreactors with microalgae such as spirulina and chlorella have been designed. Micro-algae increase oxygen levels reduce global warming and can help prevent the consequences of climate change in the future. Besides the fact that algae produce more oxygen than other plants, they can also be used for the production of biofuels and protein-rich foods. Therefore, this floor has been conceived as a techno landscape with a natural behavior, a beautiful scenography that immerses visitors in an extraordinary world where digital and physical dimensions produce novel experiences. This landscape gives rise to a narrative backbone to tackle 3 main topics where Spain is playing a key role: preservation of Biodiversity the balanced use of its resources, and the collective intelligence with special emphasis on Spanish entrepreneurship and start-ups addressing these 3 issues.


 United Arab Emirates
 Acción Cultural Española (ACE)
 660 mq
 Carmelo Zappulla
 OnionLab (Concept Co-Author & Audiovisual direction), Amin Bigdeli, Sebastian Amorelli, Stefano Fontolan, Vianella Maestra, Ilaria Rampazzo
 Lloc audiovisuals, The Others, Oxido Taller, La Maquina, Pablo Rovalo
 Adrià Goula & OnionLab


External Reference is a multidisciplinary design firm that brakes the boundaries between architecture, visual arts, and digital tools to deliver a unique special experience. Founded in 2007 in Barcelona, the studio has achieved world recognition and developed its own unique style and design methodology in commercial and cultural interior design and architecture. We have completed projects and received numerous design awards in the most influential cities worldwide: Barcelona, Dubai, London, Bangkok, Doha, and Moscow. For us 2022 is the year of the most ambitious projects like the Spanish Pavilion at EXPO2020 and the WOW concept in Madrid. Inspiring us to further expand our vision and expertise across the globe. External Reference offers one-of-a-kind spacial design concepts through immersive digital and physical media, which are able to highlight brand values and create lasting memories and emotional bonds.


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