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Expo 2020 Distrct Area Guide

In November 2013 Dubai won the right to host the internationally-renowned World Expo event in 2020 making it the first Middle Eastern city to win the award.

The theme chosen for the event is "Connecting Minds, Creating the Future" which emphasises the city's pioneering attitude to innovation and development.

The Expo site is in Jebel Ali and lies to the south of the E311 Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed highway linking Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The site is more or less half way between the two cities, the better to facilitate the movement of people and materials during construction, and the flow of visitors during the six months of the Expo, from October 2020 until April 2021.

Spread over an area of 430 hectares (1,062 acres) the site comprises a two square kilometre gated expo area surrounded by residential, hospitality and logistics zones.

Expo 2020 Distrct Masterplan

At the centre of the master plan for the expo area are three distinct zones, each dedicated to one of the sub-themes of Mobility, Sustainability and Opportunity, which will converge at the central Al Wasl Plaza, ‘the figurative and literal heart of Expo 2020’. Each zone will have its own theme pavilion provided by the UAE, the host nation.

The design contract for the venue was awarded to a consortium consisting of US-based architects HOK and engineering firm Arup, who were also involved in creating a blueprint for Dubai's Expo bid.

In August 2015 US-based engineering and design firm Parsons was awarded the infrastructure design and construction supervision services contract for the Expo 2020 Dubai site.

In March 2016 designs from three architectural practices were chosen for the theme pavilions following an international competition. The brief included a key criterion stipulating that the designs should not only embody one of Expo's core themes, but also have the flexibility and longevity to live on as landmarks and functional structures after the Expo is complete in 2021.

The Opportunity Pavilion has been designed by BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group), a group of architects, designers, builders and thinkers based in Copenhagen and New York. Their design philosophy reflects a belief that contemporary urban life is a result of the confluence of cultural exchange, global economic trends and communication technologies. BIG are known for its innovative approach to architecture and are currently working on the design of a new headquarters for Google.

Foster + Partners, the internationally renowned London based practice, has designed the Mobility Pavilion. Their design drew on nearly four decades of pioneering designs including Dubai's The Index building, and the masterplan for the world’s most sustainable eco-city, Masdar City in Abu Dhabi.

The Sustainability Pavilion, which will become a long term 'cluster' centre promoting innovative technologies, has been designed by Grimshaw Architects, the firm who designed the Eden project in Cornwall, UK, and a leader in the field of sustainable architecture. In October 2015 it was rumoured that Emaar Properties & Dubai World Trade Centre LLC will work together to build a shopping centre along with several hotels which would be designed to cater for business travellers.

The last major element in the design of the Expo 2020 Dubai site is Al Wasl Plaza, an open space that combines breathtaking design, innovative technology, and an intricate domed trellis incorporating a huge immersive projection experience.

Designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, the plaza will be a unique space at the centre of the site. It will be developed alongside the other locations, such as the themed pavilions.

Al Wasl, which is 150 metres in diameter, was designed to have not only the “wow factor” but also to be a central hub during the Expo and beyond, bringing people of all backgrounds together to “Connect Minds,” a key ambition of the Expo.

The plaza will connect the three thematic districts, Opportunity, Sustainability and Mobility, as well as the other main concourses, including the Dubai Metro link and the UAE Pavilion, through its seven entrances and exits.

Al Wasl is the historical name for Dubai but also means “connection” in Arabic, reflecting both Dubai’s goal of bringing people together at the Expo and the plaza’s physical location at the heart of the site.

The plaza will be topped by a 65-metre-high domed trellis that was inspired by the shape of the Expo 2020 Dubai logo. The trellis will act as an immersive 360-degree projection surface.

As the dome is translucent, the projection will be visible to both those inside and out. The numerous other features of the plaza include restaurants, fountains and parks.

The design of the plaza uses techniques to calibrate the temperature under the trellis with that outside, ensuring a comfortable environment.

The plaza will be home to events throughout Expo 2020 Dubai, while after the Expo finishes in 2021, it will also play a central role – literally and metaphorically – in its legacy.

The plaza will be a focal point for development in the area, with plans to convert the surrounding 10- to13-storey buildings into hotels and offices, complementing the entire mixed-use legacy of the Expo site.

The location will also complement Dubai’s events scene, having been designed to be adapted to host experiences of all sizes up to 10,000 people.

Work is started on Al Wasl Plaza during 2017 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.

Public Transport Links to Expo 2020 Distrct

Route 2020 is the extension of Dubai Metro's Red Line to the Dubai Expo 2020 venue.

A 3.2 kilometre tunnel that forms part of the route was completed in June 2018.

Tunnelling works began in October 2017 using a giant tunnel boring machine known as ‘Al Wugeisha Expo 2020’. The works started near Discovery Gardens and reached the underground station by Jumeirah Golf Estates in February 2018. Drilling then continued past Dubai Investment Park up to the Green Community where it ended.

Work on the metro viaducts is set for completion in November 2018, and all the project’s railway works are expected to be completed by July 2019. Trial runs of the metro will start in February 2020.

Expo 2020 Distrct Construction

Early works, including completion of excavation of the basement for the three thematic districts, were completed in 2016.

In March 2017 Al Futtaim Carillion, a venture partly owned by London-listed Carillion Plc, was chosen as the main contractor for the development of three districts of the Expo site that are expected to house as many as 136 pavilions for the world’s fair.

Al Futtaim Carillion is 51 per cent owned by Dubai firm Al Futtaim and 49 per cent by Carillion Construction Overseas Ltd, part of the Carillion group.

The contract is worth $600 million (Dh2.2 billion), and was the first of $3 billion of construction deals that Dubai plans to award for the Expo in 2017.

The majority of infrastructure work, including the media centre, VIP facilities and other operational areas, is due for completion by 2018. Participant nations will then begin construction of national pavilions.

All infrastructure work is expected to be completed by October 2019.

At the end of Expo 2020 the site will be demobilised and converted into to the legacy phase. 80 per cent of the Expo site building footprint will be repurposed for future use.

The first infrastructure package has been awarded. It involves the installation of electricity, water, and drainage for the Expo Village, as well as the implementation of digital technology. It also includes the construction of two pumping stations; one for sewerage, and one for irrigation and fire fighting.

The Expo Village is the residential area that will accommodate participants during the Expo. It is scheduled to be completed by April 2018.

The second infrastructure package which includes the deep infrastructure for the gated area of the site went to tender at the end of 2016.

The third and final infrastructure package will include the surface road network.

In July 2017 a contract worth Dh353 million was awarded to Arabtec to build the UAE Pavilion at the site, and another worth Dh619m to HLG Contracting to build five towers at the Expo Village.

Contracts to build the three major pavilions representing Expo 2020’s main themes of sustainability, opportunity and mobility, will be awarded in the fourth quarter of 2017.

The thematic districts will include three storey pavilions covering 201,000 square metres and a single-storey parking basement covering 147,000 square metres.

Subsequent contracts, including mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP), elevators and escalators, façade, shade structures, and public realm will be put to tender in the second quarter of 2017, with contracts awarded in the third quarter of the same period.

A tender to build up to 30,000 car parking spaces around the outer elements of the site is due to be floated by the end of the September 2017.

The construction contracts are part of a package of almost Dh11 billion worth of contracts that Expo bosses are planning to award in 2017. 

Additional public realm infrastructure will be put to tender in the first quarter of 2018, and will include concourses, a performance area and children’s parks, as well as back-of-house secure areas, such as warehousing.

As of August 2017 the site has three substations under construction, which are all due to be energised this year. Site levelling is largely complete after more than 5 million cubic metres of material has been shifted. 

All infrastructure work is set to be complete by 2018, with all of Expo’s buildings set to be ready by October 2019 - a full year ahead of the event opening.

Ground work has started on Al Wasl Plaza and the first construction contract, for the trellis structure for the 67.5-metre tall, 130-metre wide dome, was awarded in December 2017 to Cimolai Rimond Middle East General Contracting LLC, a UAE-Italian joint venture.

The structure will be constructed using 13,600 metres of steelwork weighing 2,265 tonnes. When complete, the dome will enclose a space of 724,000 cubic metres.

By the end of 2017 over 150 countries had committed to take part in Expo 2020 Dubai. They will be able to begin site work for the construction of their pavilions from April 2018 and will need to complete them by mid 2020 to allow for a three-month testing period.

The Expo 2020 team had a presence on site throughout the Milan Expo, from construction through to demolition, and spoke to participating countries to make sure they learned as much as possible.

Expo 2020 Distrct Location Map

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