A vast solar panel canopy, towering carbon fibre entry portals and the world’s largest 360-degree projection dome are among the eye-catching sights visitors will glimpse at Expo 2020 Dubai.
The spectacular show will officially open on October 1, but visitors can get their first glimpse at the rich array of dazzling attractions this week.
The Sustainability pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai will open for public viewing on Friday, helping to whet the appetite for what is still to come.
In this guide, we help visitors identify some of the towering structures they will witness at the sprawling site.
The Expo campus is twice the size of Monaco, the world’s second smallest country, and packed with offerings from more than 190 countries.
Some buildings have been handed over and workers are putting the finishing touches to other units in the Dubai South area.
The six-month world fair, scheduled to take place last year, was postponed as countries grappled with lockdowns and flight restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
These are seven stunning structures to spot when you visit:
Sustainability Pavilion – pulling water out of air
The massive canopy is not just captivating to look at. It is a 100 per cent sustainable building in the middle of the desert generating both electricity and water.
A giant sunshade pulls water out of the air and is capped with solar cells that power the building.
The 1,055 solar panels on Terra, the pavilion’s 130-metre wide canopy, contribute to generating 4 gigawatt hours of alternative energy per year, sufficient to charge more than 900,000 mobile phones.
Inspired by natural processes of photosynthesis, the pavilion draws energy from the sun and captures moisture from humid air. The water will be recycled for use in the green zones.
Solar trees in the courtyard track the path of the sun and harness sunlight.
Visitors can explore gardens, shaded courtyards and winding paths within.
Conceptualised by UK-based Grimshaw Architects, it explores how design innovation is possible even in a challenging desert environment.
“We saw this was an incredible opportunity to demonstrate what would be achievable even in a hot and arid environment,” said Andrew Whalley, Grimshaw’s deputy chairman.
As the planet warms up, the Expo aims to inspire you to be part of the fight to preserve the planet.
Massive carbon-fibre gates
Three entry portals will welcome thousands of visitors each day.
Created by British architect Asif Khan, this will be the first sight for people who alight at the specially built metro station or from shuttle buses.
Mr Khan has described the 21-metre high gateways as his “best work” yet.
Each portal has a set of two gigantic doors inspired by the Arabic mashrabiya architecture.
The three-dimensional geometric design plays with light and shadow and dwarfs visitors who walk through.
Taller than a six-storey building and 30 metres long, the doors are remarkable from an engineering standpoint as they stand structurally strong without any additional support.
From far away, the doors appear to be translucent but up close, visitors will see thousands of fine lines like latticework.
The doors lead the visitors to the three theme Expo areas of Opportunity, Mobility, and Sustainability.
“The portals are the first thing you see as you approach the site, so they are a landmark at the beginning and end of your journey at Expo 2020,” Mr Khan said.
“Passing through the doors represents a physical and symbolic act of moving from the past into the future."
Al Wasl – the Expo’s crown jewel
The dome can easily be spotted even outside the Expo site. The expansive plaza that means ‘connection’ will remain an Expo legacy long after the world fair ends.
Al Wasl is also the historical name for Dubai.
The 360-degree steel trellis is one of the largest single structures on the site.
More than 200 projectors have been fitted on sand-coloured screens.
The translucent dome will help audiences inside and outdoors see films and lights beamed on to the world’s largest projection surface.
The design reflects the intertwined logo of the Expo 2020.
The moulded steel dome weighs more than 500 tonnes and is taller than the leaning tower of Pisa. It took precision heavy lifting equipment guided by engineers to raise it into place.
Designed by US firm Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill Architecture, it embodies the emirate’s goal of bringing people together.
The trellis aims to provide an immersive experience and is the heart of the site.
Wide enough to fit two Airbus A380s, it is the Expo’s centrepiece that connects different zones and will host the main ceremonies.
Mobility Pavilion – new journeys
The ribbed and curved exterior of the Mobility Pavilion resemble a mega fidget spinner.
A series of stainless-steel fins wrap around the building and the roof is fitted with photovoltaic and solar hot water panels.
It also houses the world’s largest passenger lift that can transport more than 160 people at a time.
Designed by British architects Foster and Partners, people can watch mobility devices in action across a 340-metre track that runs in a loop around the pavilion, partly sheltered underground and outdoors.
Visitors could be served by drones or robots when they enter three zones that form a petal in the tri-foil design.
People will enter a central area that features a moving platform and will take them to the third level. From here, the audience will move down through a series of interconnected galleries to the lower floors.
They will see autonomous vehicles, hoverboards and jetpacks in demonstration areas and could even see a hyperloop capsule in action.
There will be large presentations on a raised stage and an amphitheatre where 500 people can rest before moving on.
This pavilion is billed as ideal for tech enthusiasts keen on building their own robot.
Places marked as the House of Wisdom will throw up opportunities to learn lessons from scientists whose innovations have paved the way for smart devices we use today.
The learning will cover data on artificial intelligence and space exploration.
Saudi window to the world
The pavilion that spans an area equal to two football pitches is second to the UAE pavilion in size.
Resembling a huge window opening up from the ground and soaring into the sky, the structure plans to take visitors on a tour to watch Saudi Arabia’s transformation.
The six storey-high structure features 650 solar panels and a special water feature along a massive mirror screen.
At night, lasers will shoot out marking the outline of the structure’s shape.
An art installation embedded with 2,030 crystals and work by Saudi artists will be showcased.
The experiences planned will build in to the theme of ‘The sky is the limit’ and will feature Saudi’s plans for the future, plus its aims to forge deeper links with the rest of the world.
Spain – reuse and integrate
The stunning Spanish pavilion is comprised of several large conical structures which hide interconnected sheltered spaces connecting to town squares inside.
Built from reusable materials such as wood and iron, the cones increase air flow and the natural air conditioning will help keep people cool.
Several plazas will be integrated and covered by the tall cone design.
Before entering the atrium areas, visitors will take a step back in time and learn about 800 years of Islamic rule in Spain and its ties to the Arab world.
People can step in to learn how chess was brought to Spain from the Arab world, the architectural imprint and even how the region has influenced flamenco music.
UAE pavilion – Falcon in Flight
Spread over four storeys and totalling 15,000 sqm, the impressive white UAE pavilion will be the largest on the Expo site.
Architect Santiago Calatrav won a design competition beating back nine well-known firms for his plan to build a structure in the shape of a falcon in flight.
He said it was a “symbol of the UAE’s bold and daring spirit.”
The building is located at the heart of the 200-hectare exhibition centre and can be seen from the Al Wasl Plaza and the winged Dubai Metro entrance.
Organisers are confident the pavilion will be a major attraction with exhibitions that will retell the nation’s history and how it emerged as a global hub committed to peace and progress.
Dr Sultan Al Jaber, the Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, said the country’s founding father Sheikh Zayed used falconry expeditions to forge connections between tribes and to create a distinct national identity that led to the founding of the United Arab Emirates.
“Now, the falcon design will symbolise how we are connecting the UAE to the minds of the world and how as a global community we can soar to new heights through partnership and co-operation.”