Expo 2020 Dubai

Expo 2020 Dubai

Architect
Werner Sobek
Location
Dubai - United Arab Emirates | View Map
Project Year
2021
Category
Commercial Landscape

Pavilions
Stories By
SWA

i-Mesh

Werner Sobek
Ismail Noor

Dubai Expo 2020 Public Realm

SWA as Landscape Architects

AN AMBITIOUS AGENDA

Expo 2020 Dubai is the world in one place – a global experience dedicated to bringing together people, communities and nations to build bridges, inspire action and deliver real-life solutions to real-life challenges.  

In a spirit of optimism, Expo 2020 has gathered more than 200 participants for a visually striking and emotionally inspiring 182 days.

In creating a setting that welcomes the world, accommodating distinctive pavilions from 192 countries, the Expo 2020 leadership challenged and supported SWA in forging an extraordinary landscape that:

  • Expresses the spirit of Dubai
  • Responds to the extreme climate
  • Reveals both the majestic and subtle beauty of the native landscape
  • Offers sensory delight and respite for visitors
  • Promotes human comfort
  • Provides compelling gathering spaces at many scales
  • Encourages coherent wayfinding
  • Complements and unites the different architectural expressions of pavilions

The landscape offers a memorable experiential context for the Expo 2020’s many marvels.

photo_credit Courtesy of Fran Hegeler, Director of Marketing and Communications, SWA
Courtesy of Fran Hegeler, Director of Marketing and Communications, SWA

Characteristics of the Open Space

The SWA-designed an open space network at Expo 2020 mitigates extreme climate conditions and provides experiential connectivity and wayfinding, sensory delight and distinctive place-making.The series of open spaces at Expo allows visitors to encounter the distinctive characteristics—cultural and environmental—of Dubai at this moment when it welcomes the world. 

photo_credit Courtesy of Fran Hegeler, Director of Marketing and Communications, SWA
Courtesy of Fran Hegeler, Director of Marketing and Communications, SWA

Interpretive elements take cues from the landscape itself, where paving patterns and forms are introduced to evoke wadi, sand dunes, and mountains.  Where water is used mostly sparingly to serve planted materials and occasionally extravagantly for special effects and to express a welcome generosity of the host country.

photo_credit Courtesy of Fran Hegeler, Director of Marketing and Communications, SWA
Courtesy of Fran Hegeler, Director of Marketing and Communications, SWA

Tempering the extreme climate, open spaces also offer comfort and relief for Expo visitors in ways that are both subtle and overt, natural and built.  Shade is introduced not only with tree canopies but with imaginative structures. Examples include the dramatic ten-meter-high trellis that shelters The Loop with hundreds of custom-designed kite-like forms in the shape of birds. 

photo_credit Fran Hegeler, Director of Marketing and Communications, SWA
Fran Hegeler, Director of Marketing and Communications, SWA

Cooling is also achieved through the strategic integration of plantings and water which reduce the ambient temperature, while also offering visual and auditory pleasures of reflection and shadow, gurgle and whisper.  More than half of all the plants used on site are native and adaptive species.  Further, paving materials exceed SRI solar reflective standards, prevent the buildup of heat island effects.

photo_credit Fran Hegeler, Director of Marketing and Communications, SWA
Fran Hegeler, Director of Marketing and Communications, SWA

The sequence

A dramatic series of landscaped spaces comprise the arrival from the metro station, commencing with a broad Welcome Plaza, which narrows to a central, tree-lined promenade that doubles as home to the leadership pavilion and provides for a formal procession to the heart of Expo 2020, the phenomenal domed Al Wasl Plaza.

The Loop, a shaded pedestrian promenade, encircles the site, allowing visitors to access the three districts without having to return to the center.  Here, dazzling 10-meter-high shade structure is comprised of suspended forms in the shape of birds. And the Loop’s connector is lined with Ghaf trees, the national tree of UAE.

From The Loop, visitors can also access substantial landscaped spaces between the pavilion neighborhoods, including two major parks – Jubilee Park to the south and Al Forsan Park, the Ghayath Trail to the north, and the Oasis (home to “Surreal” a signature fountain).  Each of these parks accommodates added programs and offers a particular character, enabling visitors to find variety in their respite and insight into the depth of Expo’s themes and their underlying foundation in Middle East culture. All of these open spaces will be retained as part of Expo’s legacy to serve as the basis for the new human-centric city-within-a-city, District 2020. 

photo_credit Fran Hegeler, Director of Marketing and Communications, SWA
Fran Hegeler, Director of Marketing and Communications, SWA

EXPO OPEN SPACE - DESIGN ELEMENTS

Jubilee Park:

Jubilee Park is inspired by wadi, seasonal rivers that are formed in the desert through periods of intense storms and give rise to a rich palette of vegetation that often survives also through the dry months.  Wadis bring life to the desert creating, along their path, green oases allowing plants to bloom.

Paving patterns in Jubilee Park serve as a metaphor for the wadi, with their color, patterns and sinuous curves representing the flow of water in the landscape.  Here the wadi pathway meanders through the site to create distinct landscaped spaces: it follows the edges of the large performance space at the center of the park, and continues on to the main arrival plaza adjacent to the loop boulevard. Here we find some of the park’s main features including restaurant and snack facilities, kiosks of the souk market and the observation tower.

A swath of date palms follows the edges of the wadi path and connects the main arrival plaza to the outdoor event stage at the opposite side of the park.

The vegetation selected for this park closely reflects the character of the native, UAE, desert flora. Drought tolerant, native and adapted species are mixed with a variety of soft grasses and seasonal planting species.

photo_credit Fran Hegeler, Director of Marketing and Communications, SWA
Fran Hegeler, Director of Marketing and Communications, SWA

AL Forsan Park

While the Jubilee Park is inspired by Dubai’s distinctive natural beauty, the Al Forsan Park takes its cues from culture. 

Nested between the Opportunity and the Sustainability Thematic Districts, on the two sides, and the UAE pavilion, on the south, the Al Forsan Park is a green hub for different cultural and social experiences.

Design inspiration comes from the mosaic, an art form found throughout the Islamic world.  Al Forsan Park takes its cues – physically and programmatically -- from this art form, forging a series of spaces that bring together different programs, themes and age groups. Here, individual spaces converge like a mosaic of colorful tiles in a coherent design, characterized by abstract, repetitive geometric patterns.  The park can be read as a metaphor of the UAE, an historic crossroad of people and cultures, and a nation of seven emirates, together, each with its distinct identity.

Inside the park, each ‘mosaic space’ is also designed to meet different needs of different age groups, from engaging interactive displays to showcase and activate the Expo experience to the more somatic spaces such as restaurants, snack facilities and resting areas for visitors to decompress.

Snack-in facilities are provided on the northwest and on the southeast side of the park, while a polygonal outdoor performance space will host outdoor concerts, plays and outdoor lectures.

The landscape on the north side of the park offers an intentionally minimalist design, anticipating future construction of the mosque that, after the Expo event, will serve the community of the future city of Expo 2020. A large open lawn provides a venue for outdoor play and sport activities.

Just like the vibrant tiles of a rich Middle Eastern mosaic the plants species selected for this park provide a rich palette of colors and an overall pleasant sensory experience, with emphasis on soft textures and fragrances.

photo_credit Fran Hegeler, Director of Marketing and Communications, SWA
Fran Hegeler, Director of Marketing and Communications, SWA

Ghayath Trail

Just opposite of Al Forsan Park on the interior of the ring promenade is Ghayath Trail, a crescent shaped landscape that buffers the UAE pavilion. 

Imagined as an engaging ‘art walk,’ Ghayath Trail meanders through a dense canopy of native (Ghaf) trees connecting different large size sculptures and providing a whimsical, adventurous, experience of the landscape.

The meandering walk continues, across the ring promenade, connecting to the arrival plaza of Al Forsan Park

photo_credit Fran Hegeler, Director of Marketing and Communications, SWA
Fran Hegeler, Director of Marketing and Communications, SWA

The Loop

The Loop, a shaded pedestrian promenade, is the primary pedestrian circulation.  It encircles the site, allowing visitors to access the main open spaces, as well as the three districts without having to return to the center.  The dazzling ten-meter-high shade structure is comprised of suspended forms in the shape of birds, an artful form that cools and casts dramatic shadows.  The Loop is lined with Ghaf trees, the national tree of UAE.

photo_credit Fran Hegeler, Director of Marketing and Communications, SWA
Fran Hegeler, Director of Marketing and Communications, SWA

Quotes (TBC):

“As visitors move through the Expo 2020’s pavilions, they will experience the great mosaic that is both the Expo event and the region itself. The sequence of spaces, the palette of native plant materials, the cultural resonance of the geometric paving patterns, the integration of art and innovative construction— all combine to offer wayfinding and respite between pavilions. We are excited that the open space platform for Expo will live on as legacy as the human-centric new city of District 2020.” – John Wong, Principal Designer of EXPO, SWA Group

Expo 2020 Dubai

i-Mesh as Manufacturers

Dubai, United Arab Emirates | i-Mesh, a young company from the Marche region of Italy, is responsible for the cover of the Expo 2020 Dubai promenade. It consists of 2.7 km of Made in Italy technical fabric for architecture, for a total area of 52,500 square meters. The high-tech, green, textile material is better performing, more sustainable, and more versatile for the local climate. In fact, i-Mesh flourished in a sandstorm resistance test, remaining intact without ripping thanks to the strength and flexibility of its fibers, soft material, and well- calibrated weight.

photo_credit Ismail Noor
Ismail Noor

The theme of Expo 2020, which is scheduled for October 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022 in Dubai, is "Connecting Minds, Creating the Future," a philosophy also shared by Alberto Fiorenzi, the founder of i-Mesh. Starting from his experience in the aerospace and nautical sectors, he has created a new, highly-performing material for architecture, conceived from the viewpoint of circularity and maximum customization.

photo_credit Ismail Noor
Ismail Noor

i-Mesh allows imagining a new architectural paradigm. A type of soft architecture which designs softer, more flexible, versatile spaces that focus on human beings and their well-being. Inclusive and welcoming spaces, they “react” to the real needs of people, ensuring visual and environmental comfort. i-Mesh is the thread that binds everything, a "touch" material that has found its most important expressive manifestation at Expo 2020 Dubai.

photo_credit Ismail Noor
Ismail Noor

An ethereal, translucent "cloud" hanging between land and sky that protects from the heat during the day and transforms into a projection screen at night. The fabric features the distinctive patterns of a modern "Mashrabiya," the latticework traditionally used in the architecture of Arab countries. This is how the i-Mesh covers of Expo 2020 Dubai designed by the German studio Werner Sobek, which chose to use this innovative Made in Italy material for their project, can be described. It is a poetic “see through” effect made possible by the lightness and transparency of this technical fabric.

photo_credit Ismail Noor
Ismail Noor

Applied on a large urban scale for the first time, i-Mesh covers the main walkways connecting the areas of Expo 2020 Dubai. It does not block the view of the sky nor the passage of air, but instead repels solar radiation, providing a feeling of comfort while maintaining a pleasant microclimate. Werner Sobek's idea was to recreate the intimate and familiar character of a retractable pergola, but with significant dimensions: an idea that i-Mesh allowed him to transform into reality.

photo_credit Ismail Noor
Ismail Noor

“The Dubai Shade Structures perfectly embody the combination of lightweight construction, innovation and design that we seek out in all our projects,” according to Werner Sobek, who has designed a structure that is both light and robust thanks to the highly engineered solutions and advanced technologies adopted. The result is an innovative project from multiple points of view. Collaborating with i-Mesh allowed him to build the largest retractable cover ever made. It is the first canopy produced with only 3% waste of virgin material, compared to the standard 25% of the textile industry. It is also the first time that a start-up has been awarded an order in an Expo project.

photo_credit Ismail Noor
Ismail Noor

The challenge was to create 2.7 kilometers of retractable covers for a total 52,500 square meters of i-Mesh, all without transverse support beams. This eliminated the need for 30 kilometers of extruded aluminum, thereby avoiding the emission of 31 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. And there's more: i-Mesh is also reusable. This means that when the Universal Exposition is over, a large part of the fabric used for the covers will remain on site as a permanent installation, while other parts can be reused in another city context, according to a logic of zero waste. The Expo 2020 Dubai project is the result of a long study, in which the solutions were "certified" by a calculation system specially created in collaboration with the Polytechnic Institute of Milan.

photo_credit Ismail Noor
Ismail Noor

INNOVATION AND TECHNICAL RESEARCH AT THE BASE OF A NEW CONCEPT OF ARCHITECTURE

i-Mesh is composed of two elements: six types of fibers (including four minerals) and a thermoplastic polymer whose properties remain intact during the industrial process. This means that it can be separated from the fibers during recycling operations.

photo_credit Ismail Noor
Ismail Noor

i-Mesh is a patented, light, extremely resistant technical fabric that can be installed, stored, and disassembled with great ease. It can also be reused several times in various ways. It is produced exclusively in custom-made panels, according to a zero waste logic. It is a circular product, but also an entirely customizable material. In fact, every i- Mesh pattern is created based on the specific needs of the designer.

photo_credit Ismail Noor
Ismail Noor

i-Mesh can be used both indoors and outdoors. It can be used indoors to make high- tech curtains, vertical dividers, false ceilings, skylights, and tapestries. Outdoors, it instead filters and reflects solar radiation, allowing the passage of light while at the same time guaranteeing thermal and visual comfort. The total freedom of customization in terms of both pattern and design is undoubtedly the greatest advantage of i-Mesh: in fact, there is no standard weave in its production. "I-Mesh is a material that is entirely free from the constraints of traditional weaving, always generating new emotions and expressive forms," explained Alberto Fiorenzi.

photo_credit © i-Mesh
© i-Mesh

WE DESIGN THE FUTURE

The Expo 2020 Dubai can be considered a successful bet, but Alberto Fiorenzi is already looking to the future with the idea that i-Mesh can become, "The paradigm for a new way of doing architecture to design flexible and versatile spaces for people and their well-being. A soft architecture that provides sustainable and customizable solutions and leaves less and less of a trace on the planet."

Shading the Desert

Werner Sobek as Architects

Expansive shading systems based on a design by Werner Sobek link the pavilions at the World Expo in Dubai.

Due to the corona situation, the first World Expo to be held in an Arab country opened its doors with a one-year delay on 1st October 2021. Over 190 nations are presenting spectacular buildings to the over 25 million visitors expected by the managers of EXPO 2020 up to the end of March 2022. The theme of the event is "Connecting Minds, Creating the Future". The country pavilions are connected by elegant shading systems designed and engineered by Werner Sobek, a global engineering and architecture consultancy based in Germany. The innovative constructions span an area of around 96,000 square metres – equivalent to the size of 13 football pitches.

The EXPO 2020 pavilions stand on land that was previously barren desert. Visitors have 182 days to explore the newly created site before it is transformed into a new Dubai neighbourhood, "District 2020", when the World Expo ends. 80 percent of the buildings and structures built for the EXPO will be retained.

The shading structures covering the walkways between the exhibition pavilions will also continue to be used after the EXPO. These elegant roofing elements provide pleasant shade in Dubai's hot desert climate. Werner Sobek was responsible for these shade structures from the very beginning – starting with the design, general engineering, structural engineering, sustainability concept and support for the certification to CEEQUAL right through to construction supervision. "We are proud that our shade structures played a major part in shaping the EXPO site," declares Holger Hinz, who was closely involved in the project over a period of years in his role as General Manager of Werner Sobek Dubai.

photo_credit Andreas Keller
Andreas Keller

Bird-like shade providers and plant-covered pergolas
Based on the principle of a large-span steel-frame structure, Werner Sobek designed three different shading systems. Varying in their visual impression, they are united by the task of acting as a link: "They provide a harmonious connection between the heterogeneous pavilion buildings without competing against them," explains Marc Gabriel, Werner Sobek’s lead architect in the project. He adds: "The client demanded an architectural and engineering highlight, but one that didn't steal the limelight from the pavilions and still ensured a clear view of them. Comprehensive studies were carried out to determine the precise geometry of the sunshade roofs." The shade structures ensure a reduction in ambient temperature of up to five degrees Celsius during the warm months, ensuring a much more pleasant visit to the EXPO in the desert state. "To make sure this was the case, we produced microclimate simulations of the entire public space – including the surrounding buildings and planned vegetation – at several stages in the project," explains Leman Altinisik, one of Werner Sobek’s sustainability experts.

A shading system with around 3,500 bird-shaped membrane figures spanning up to four metres covers an area of 16,400 square metres. The winged elements are supported by multi-layered horizontal wire meshing. Climbing plants provide greenery for the second system. These pergolas feature around 11,000 plants rooted at the shading level and cover an area of approx. 19,000 square metres. Besides creating shade, the plants also provide natural cooling by means of evaporation.

photo_credit Andreas Keller
Andreas Keller

Especially developed high-tech textile
Measuring 56,000 square metres, the largest shading area consists of a canopy made of a non-prestressed fibreglass membrane. The roof construction requires no additional cross members or visible harnesses, making it even more elegant in appearance. Thanks to its lightweight construction, it saves a lot of material and therefore also grey energy and CO2. The high-tech textile covers around 2.7 kilometres of the walkways between the pavilions. The canopy can be retracted to its standby position in no time at all should the wind become too strong. The membrane surface provides shade during the day and acts as a projection screen at night. The textile presented the team at Werner Sobek with huge challenges during both development and production. "The interdisciplinary team of designers and manufacturers minimised the use of material by means of parametric studies," explains Holger Hinz. "The fibre structure follows the distribution of forces and the desired size of the openings in the fabric. It is the first time a multi-axial glass fibre membrane has been realised in connection with a flexible, non-prestressed and moveable structure optimised in terms of load transfer. No flexible non-crimp fabric had been produced on such a scale and in such a quantity before our project. The production systems for the textile were not designed until the sample phase and not built until the contract was signed. Development continued during the manufacturing process."

photo_credit Andreas Keller
Andreas Keller

Designed with sustainability in mind
When conducting his research to identify a suitable material, Werner Sobek placed great importance on a high level of homogeneity, resource efficiency, recyclability and reducing emissions. "It was the choice of material that enabled the design in the first place," says Marc Gabriel. "We also wanted our design to arouse awareness with regard to sustainability."

The shade structures were certified to CEEQUAL Platinum, thus reflecting Werner Sobek's high standards in terms of durable, resource-saving construction. CEEQUAL is the world leading sustainability assessment and awards scheme for construction projects in the fields of infrastructure, landscaping and public realm projects. The excellent certification was due to the structures' excellent properties in terms of dismantling and recycling plus the fact that a very large proportion of the materials used was sourced in the region.

photo_credit Andreas Keller
Andreas Keller

World's largest BIM model
The shading systems were designed in the same overall digital model as all the other EXPO buildings. This BIM model is the largest of its kind in the world. Werner Sobek had to act particularly fast in the design and planning phase, for example presenting the foundation drawings ready for execution in the preliminary phase as these also had an impact on the EXPO infrastructure. Subsequent adjustments were practically impossible as these would also have had an impact on the almost 200 accompanying construction projects on the EXPO site.

Project Credits
Architects
Manufacturers
Photographers
SWA
Landscape Architects
Product Spec Sheet

ElementBrand
Manufacturersi-Mesh
Product Spec Sheet
Manufacturers
by i-Mesh
Featured Projects
Latest Products
News
Under the Willow Tree by Objekt Architechten provides residents an ecologically-minded house in a beautiful green setting
14 May 2022 News
Under the Willow Tree by Objekt Architechten provides residents an ecologically-minded house in a beautiful green setting

In the middle of the countryside at the highest point of the village of Ninove, Belgium, an existing... More

Park Associati’s Luxottica Digital Factory project reinterprets and revitalizes an existing industrial building in Milan
14 May 2022 News
Park Associati’s Luxottica Digital Factory project reinterprets and revitalizes an existing industrial building in Milan

In Milan, Park Associati’s Luxottica Digital Factory project reinterprets an existing industri... More

Luconi architetti mix modern elements with traditional Alpine architecture
14 May 2022 News
Luconi architetti mix modern elements with traditional Alpine architecture

Located in the Alpine region of Madesimo, Italy, Baita MV by Luconi architetti comprises an extensio... More

OMA inverts theater typology by plugging three cantilevered theaters into a central cube
13 May 2022 News
OMA inverts theater typology by plugging three cantilevered theaters into a central cube

Rem Koolhaas sees the Taipei Performing Arts Center as close as they have ever been to defining a ne... More

Material and structural capacity of concrete defines the design of Casa de Alisa
12 May 2022 News
Material and structural capacity of concrete defines the design of Casa de Alisa

In Nonthaburi, Thailand, Casa de Alisa by Stu/D/O Architects is defined by the material and structur... More

Sakinaw Lake House celebrates the beauty of Canada’s Sunshine Coast
12 May 2022 News
Sakinaw Lake House celebrates the beauty of Canada’s Sunshine Coast

Located on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, Sakinaw Lake House by WOVEN Architecture and Desi... More

David Chipperfield complete renovation of Venice’s Procuratie Vecchie on the Piazza San Marco
12 May 2022 News
David Chipperfield complete renovation of Venice’s Procuratie Vecchie on the Piazza San Marco

In 2017, David Chipperfield’s Milan studio won the commision for the renovation of the Procura... More

A dynamic new bus stop for Santiago de Compostela serves as both a building and viewpoint
11 May 2022 News
A dynamic new bus stop for Santiago de Compostela serves as both a building and viewpoint

This new bus station in Santiago de Compostela sees the concept of building merge with that of a vie... More