Dubai: With a name tag around your neck, you sit in an orientation position with other freshmen from around the world.
This is Campus Germany in the sustainability district of Expo 2020 Dubai, where you can expect the perfect balance of work and play throughout your brief academic career. Each room in the five-story building knows your name, nationality and the language you speak.
“An interior navigation system can point out where you are and present the information accordingly,” said Andreas Horbelt, Creative Director of Fact and Fiction and the mastermind behind the highly personalized visitor journey to the pavilion. Germany. “Here you are made to feel like a subject, not like an object – that was very important to us.”
The pavilion is almost omniscient in that sense – screens greet visitors with their names as they pass, and video subtitles switch to their language of choice once they’re close. All you need is your handy badge to trigger this personalized experience. Entertainment aside, the message becomes clearer when more than one person is needed to overcome a challenge – humanity needs to “come together to find solutions”.
“Now get Earth back on track! Exclaims a table with a trackball in the center. In the era of the Anthropocene, there are certain planetary limits that we must respect to prevent our existence from being in danger. Along with other visitors, you are told that your collective efforts can save the human race if you manage to keep the ball out of the “red zone”. Visitors jostle around the table with glee and to protect the Earth, a side step in the wrong direction can cause the ball to roll.
You not only learn that we have crossed four of the nine planetary borders – one of which is climate change – but also realize the importance of working together to solve global challenges.
“We talked to a lot of scientists and companies about the future, and then we had to translate all that content into experiments,” Horbelt said. “The research phase took us about two years.
Graduated in swings
The four zones of the German pavilion are deceptively playful. A 100,000-ball pit in the Welcome Hall is more than just a playground; each bullet contains the ideas of a German sustainability champion. From how we will survive in the growing cities of the future to new ways of creating energy, the campus is a treasure trove of sustainable solutions – the term was first coined in German, after all.
At the end of it all, an emotional graduation ceremony awaits you no matter how you fare in your classes. Instead of a black gown and cap, this graduation party involves a lot of rocking. “You’ve shown you care,” a grim voice echoes across wall-to-wall screens as visitors take their seats on swings suspended in the expansive room. Here you are challenged with one final task: swing in sync to save the world in sync.