Pavilion designer Funk says bringing this slice of nature to life was “rocket science”
Dubai: Micro droplets of water cling to your hair and clothes once you enter the glass doors – but what is a little moisture in the face of hiking up the majestic Swiss Alps? It is chilly inside, pleasantly so, and bars of white light mark your elevated trek. But diving into this sea of fog also comes with a sense of trepidation. You cannot tell where you are headed.
“Once you are in the sea of fog, it is a very mystical, sensual experience. Sometimes it’s a bit scary, but also beautiful,” Iwan Funk, Managing Partner of Bellprat Partner AG, told Gulf News in an interview.
The glacial country is perhaps best known for its Alpine region, the snow-capped mountains cover 60 per cent of its terrain, after all. Though in the Switzerland Pavilion, the experience is more than just a hiker’s simulation. When winter nights stretch on for 16 hours at a time, reaching the peaks to catch whatever sliver of sunlight is there, is a Swiss’ most cathartic moment.
“During winter time, we don’t see the sun too often in the cities. So, people go to the mountains where they have to travel through fog. And when you emerge, it’s just amazing,” said Funk.
In the void, it is difficult to discern light let alone where you are, but then the clouds of mist soon begin to dissipate at the peak. Looking around, visitors will find a wall-to-wall depiction of the watery winter sun between mountaintops against a pink-tinged sky. What would have been a typical eight-day hike is now condensed to under a minute, all thanks to Funk’s penchant for magic.
“We don’t use artificial fog – it is real. It’s made of pure drinking water just as how fog is made in Nature,” he added. “The water is passed through three filters because people are going to be inhaling it.”
Before the technology landed in Dubai, trial runs took place in a rented swimming pool, and Funk soon learned that creating a force of Nature was trickier than expected. Even the amount of water the fog needs to mature cannot be pinned down.
“We didn’t know if it was going to work a hundred per cent in Dubai because temperature and humidity are different here. We can’t control it completely; it is a natural phenomenon.”
And with a mind of its own. A beam of laser is regularly used to measure visibility inside the exhibition space; depending on climate conditions and the number of hikers inside the room, the fog can either grow thicker or thin out. Funk describes his creation as “moody”.
But it is all part and parcel of developing a memorable experience for visitors. “At the end of the day, visitors go back and think about when we [were able] to touch their emotions.”
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