21/09/2016 - World Expo 2020
An artist's impression of Al Wasl Plaza

How Dubai Expo 2020 will leave a lasting legacy living up to its over-arching theme, Connecting Minds, Creating the Future

Dubai Expo 2020 will mark a major milestone in the UAE’s history. Not only will it represent the first time in history that the exposition has been hosted by a Middle East country, but it will prove to the world that the UAE is capable of staging an event of this status and magnitude.

Preparations for the event are well underway, with the masterplan for the Expo site revealed earlier this year and key event partners signed up including Emirates Airline.

At the same time, hotels and attractions are being built and Dubai’s infrastructure is being enhanced to cope with the 25 million visitors the six-month-long event is expected to attract.

The focus is very much on the here and now in terms of media hype and pre-Expo coverage, yet organisers are placing as much, if not more emphasis on the sustainability of the Dubai Expo 2020 site and the long-term legacy of the event, not just locally, but globally.

Earlier this month organisers of revealed legacy plans for Expo’s mega site, which include reusing or re-purposing some 80 percent of the 4.38-square-kilometre exhibition area.

The themed districts, named after the event’s sub-themes of Mobility, Sustainability and Opportunity, will play host to most of the country pavilions and when the Expo is over, these will be transformed into collaborative work spaces for companies as well as “social and cultural institutions”, according to the Expo committee.

In addition, Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) will be appointed to run the conference and exhibition centre, which will become a major events venue for the city.

The site will also feature residential communities and retail space.

Legacy planners have focused on using the site to help develop four industries – education, transport and logistics, travel and tourism and real estate – all of which are strategic priorities for the UAE.

Organisers say they will be exploring what technologies, “including augmented reality, big data and the internet of things” could transform these industries.

“We have spent the past year working on developing our masterplan specifically to create a platform for the future,” says Expo 2020’s vice president of legacy, Marjan Faraidooni.

“More than 80 percent of our investments will be retained following the event. This includes the infrastructure, as well as the cutting edge technologies, the roads and public transport systems put in place to host the Expo.

“We intend to build on those physical and virtual platforms to create an ecosystem that lives through legacy.”

Designs for life

By 2021 when the UAE celebrates its Golden Jubilee, it aims to be one of the world’s leading countries – a goal that has been set out in the UAE Vision 2021 strategy.

In order to achieve this, there are two key objectives: creating a competitive knowledge economy and promoting a sustainable approach to the environment and infrastructure. Expo 2020 Dubai’s sub-themes (Opportunity, Mobility, Sustainability) closely complement these objectives.

The designs of the Mobility, Sustainability and Opportunity Pavilions successfully integrate flexibility and longevity in order to ensure the 438-hectare Expo site remains a functional national landmark after the event has finished in 2021.

Sustainability is a design imperative for Expo 2020 and will be reflected in the architecture and function of each of these pavilions.

British firm Grimshaw has been commissioned to create the Sustainability Pavilion, which aims to “illuminate the ingenuity and possibility of architecture as society looks to intelligent strategies for sustainable future living”.

“The pavilion is a unique opportunity to deliver an aspirational message about the natural world, ecology and technology to a global audience,” says Grimshaw.

“We have sought to create a holistic experience that is both exhilarating and informative, and with the support of engineering consultants Buro Happold, the pavilion is designed not only for its striking form, but for its demonstrative capabilities. “Drawing inspiration from complex natural processes like photosynthesis, the dynamic form of the pavilion is in service to its function, capturing energy from sunlight and fresh water from humid air.”

The Dubai Expo 2020 committee says it will be one of the most sustainable Expos in history and will build on existing efforts in Dubai and the UAE to educate society about sustainable living, and the environmental challenges we all face.

Half of the electricity used by Expo during the event will come from wholly renewable sources, with 50 percent generated onsite.

The vast majority of the material used in permanent construction on the site (90 percent of the total) will be reused or repurposed in the legacy state of the buildings and infrastructure, and because the UAE’s desert climate makes any reduction of water use a key priority, Expo site buildings will use 25 percent less water than the regulatory requirement, and all water used for irrigation and cooling will be recycled.

The bigger picture

Expo 2020 Dubai will create investment and employment opportunities across a wide range of sectors such as real estate, construction, hospitality, transportation and much more, organisers have stressed.

Residents and visitors will benefit from the expected significant infrastructure upgrades that Expo 2020 Dubai will bring in the form of new roads, a metro line extension, bridges, and logistics hubs.

Overall, Expo 2020 Dubai is expected to create at least 250,000 jobs and contribute more than $19 billion to the UAE’s economy. It will create a diversified economy and a sustainable legacy for the UAE.

It is also hoped hosting a mega event will motivate and inspire Emirati youngsters and several youth-focused initiatives have been launched with this in mind.

At the same time, more than 30,000 volunteers from a wide range of ages, nationalities and backgrounds will be recruited – a move it is hoped will promote cultural cohesion, as well as the concept of volunteerism in the UAE. 

“Expo 2020 Dubai is an ideal vehicle to promote further global cultural understanding between the UAE and the rest of the world as well as strengthen the UAE’s international reputation as an ideal destination to visit, work, and invest,” says Najeeb Mohammed Al-Ali, executive director, Bureau Expo 2020 Dubai.

“This is our chance to show the world what the UAE can do. It is our opportunity to demonstrate our capabilities in hosting a global event that leaves a positive impact and legacy, and challenges preconceptions about this region.”