Italy is out to make a big impression at Expo 2020 Dubai as art historians and computer programmers carefully construct a 3D replica of Michelangelo's David to be the striking centrepiece of its pavilion.
Engineers used high-tech cameras and mounted laser scanners on stairs to capture microscopic details of the 16th-century marble statue at the Accademia Gallery in Florence.
The first-of-its-kind, precise life-size copy of the four-metre Renaissance masterpiece is being printed out in Italy before preparations begin for transport to Dubai.
Paolo Glisenti, Italy's commissioner general for the Dubai Expo, told The National that cutting-edge digital and visual technology used in space helped to piece together the copy.
He said the aim was “to make the first perfect twin of the sculpture Michelangelo created more than 500 years ago".
“We consider it our main tribute to the Expo visionary message, Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” he said.
Mr Glisenti checked the progress at the site in Dubai South on Monday as part of a five-day visit to the Emirates.
Dozens of workers were busy readying high pillars and support structures for three boat hulls that will form the roof of the pavilion.
The wooden boat frames are being finished in Italy before being brought to Dubai next month.
"The three hulls, painted to form the biggest Italian flag [yet made], will be unveiled some time in late April. It has taken months of work to construct them and to make a perfect roof covering more than 3,000 square metres," Mr Glisenti said.
Work on the shell and core of the pavilion is complete and architects are now starting on fit-outs within.
Italy backed Dubai's decision to postpone the world fair by a year.
Italian officials welcomed the opportunities the expo holds for local communities and overseas businesses.
Mr Glisenti said planners used the time to refocus on using technology to maintain a safe visitor experience, as well as sanitise and monitor the area.
A smart tag will be given to all pavilion visitors that will alert them should they get within metres of another person.
Planners have adapted too, with more digital offerings and additional open spaces.
“We have dramatically raised digitalisation of the pavilion,” he said.
The objective is to connect scientists, entrepreneurs, artists and students across the world in real time.
“I call it a ‘speaking and viewing’ pavilion fully integrated inside and outside,” Mr Glisenti said about displaying tech and green solutions produced by Italian companies.
He said they moved quickly to incorporate natural ventilation in a fully open-air visitor path, sensors to detect proximity and flow of people, nanotechnologies for indoor air sanitising, and algae cultivation to absorb the carbon dioxide guests exhale.
He said the Expo could be a milestone for the rest of the world “by showing how architects, designers, real estate companies, smart energy and sustainable mobility providers can connect and work together in post pandemic era for urban regeneration projects”.
Other features to watch out for are a garden filled with rare Italian plants and flowers and a sand dune structure where the main exhibits will be housed.
About 10,000 Italian university students responded to a call for volunteers and Mr Glisenti described the response as extraordinary.
“What is, in my view, even more amazing is that they are of 67 different nationalities. Which means that our visitors will go through a truly multilingual and multiculture pavilion,” he said.
The six-month Expo will open in Dubai in October.
As part of a soft opening, bookings are open for the Sustainability Pavilion, an eco-friendly attraction, one of the main themes of the world fair.