Client: Global Affairs Canada for Expo 2020 Dubai

Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Completion date: 2021

Artwork budget: $1,000,000

Project Team

Original Concept, Creative Art Direction & Production Design



Multimedia Design & Art direction

Étienne Paquette


National Film Board of Canada

Production & Tour Production

Alexandre Lemieux



A poetic vision of an uncertain future and a reflection upon our present, the TRACES public art installation situated on the Canada Pavilion site at Expo 2020 Dubai, challenges visitors and raises awareness about the growing threat to ecosystems caused by climate change.

In developing a concept that would be artistic, poetic and meaningful, the team studied multiple aspects of global warming and habitat degradation before embracing a visual that captured the very essence of their message – a rising murmur of birds, swirling across the sky in a massive, collective movement. In order to capture and convey a message of urgency surrounding the issue of rapid habitat decline, KANVA came up with the idea of fossilization of an inhabited landscape, where birds are suspended in motion in a fossilized form that preserves “TRACES’’ of their existence.

The expression unfolds in a series of eight boxes. Each museum box, measuring 8’ x 8’x 8’, contains a precious object that embodies the beauty of dynamic life in suspension, complemented by multimedia interactions developed with artist Étienne Paquette. As visitors weave their way towards the entry hall of the pavilion, they are invited to move through multisensorial experiences of discovery and self-appropriation.


The multisensorial exhibition was commissioned by Global Affairs Canada and produced by the National Film Board of Canada to populate the Plaza grounds leading up to the Entry Hall of the Canada Pavilion at World Expo 2020 Dubai. KANVA took a national, yet universal approach to designing a public installation that aligned with both Canada’s participation at the Expo and the Expo’s themes of Opportunity, Mobility, and Sustainability.

TRACES was designed to integrate harmoniously with the architecture and the overall visitor experience of the Canada Pavilion. The installation’s eight boxes are scattered across the plaza in a non-linear fashion, countering the traditional linear grid of human development.

The procession is an intuitive preamble to the pavilion. While integrated into the pavilion’s approach, TRACES distinguishes itself in its orthogonal shape, white materiality and performative aspects. The dual performance of the art and architecture is complimentary to the pre-show and show of the pavilion that reflects Canada’s diversity and landscapes.

As visitors weave their way towards the pavilion, the preciousness of nature is brought to life through interactive sound and light animations, as a notion of hope towards the protection of species and natural habitats.


The collaboration seen in TRACES functions as a necessary precedent to collaboration required to address climate change.

In creating their art, the team journeyed into multiple experimental processes, each one enhancing their conviction along the way. The production of the fossils was a complex process that involved hand modelling, scanning, and 3D printing sculptures of birds depicting numerous flight patterns at various scales and using amber tinted resin to bring the fossils to life. The team embraced the process and allowed the materials to express themselves.

Designing, prototyping and producing TRACES was an extremely rewarding experience for the socially and environmentally conscious firm KANVA. Beyond the discipline of traditional architecture, the project immersed the creators and producers in pressing global issues, as well as the deep study of bird species and their diverse movements and sounds. Moreover, the artistry and craftmanship ranged from manual crafts such as drawing and sculpting to the production of highly technical soundscapes and animations.

In the end, the team could not be prouder of the outcome. The project has the capacity to be light, beautiful, and entertaining, yet also serve as a conduit of education, consciousness, awareness, and urgency.

Additional Information

Demonstrating artifacts bearing witness to accelerated extinction of threatened species, the eight complementary experiences provoke feelings of emotional attachment, and encourages collective and individual participation — all with the desire to inspire and promote social change at an international scale. TRACES is the first World Expo installation that was conceived and designed, from the beginning, for touring, to pursue its legacy and extend its reach and sharing of its message. Global Affairs Canada partnered with the National Film Board of Canada to commission the major installation for the cultural program and visitor experience at the Canada Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. This partnership with Canada’s award-winning public producer and distributor highlights Canada’s innovative creative industries. Audiences around the world will have the opportunity to experience TRACES during a five-year national and international tour following Expo Dubai 2020. As the world’s leading agency for tourable public interactive installations, Creos can count TRACES as a perfect addition to its existing portfolio available for new destinations that are eager to challenge visitors, raise awareness about the growing threat to ecosystems, and to present art in a new form.