Expo site preparations enter home stretch
With just over a year to go until Dubai Expo 2020 opens its doors to the world, the site is rapidly approaching its final form
The build up at the Expo 2020 site is now in full swing. All permanent structures being built by the organiser are on course to be finished by the end of 2019. Construction of the three thematic districts was completed in May 2019 and so far, more than 100 million work hours have been recorded on site.
“As we approach a year to go until Expo 2020 opens its doors to the world on 20 October 2020, the excitement is more tangible than ever for this unprecedented event,” says Ahmed al-Khatib, chief development and delivery officer at Expo 2020 Dubai. “With construction of many of the site’s milestone projects close to reaching completion, [it is a critical] moment in what has been an amazing journey so far.”
In September 2019, the delivery team reached a symbolically significant milestone in the crowning of Al-Wasl Plaza.
Al-Wasl Plaza is to the Expo 2020 site what the Burj Khalifa is to Dubai – an iconic, central landmark and, in the plaza’s case, the beating heart of the site. Connecting the three thematic districts, it will serve as a meeting point and venue for year-round outdoor celebrations.
The successful installation of the dome’s final piece “was a moment we all have waited for”, says Al-Khatib. “More than 10 countries were involved in the project and we worked round the clock. It was an amazing moment when the crown was lifted and it has really completed the profile of the expo.”
Designed by the US’ Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, the 550-tonne steel crown required nearly 800 personnel onsite during its positioning.
The welding of the crown to the dome and the insertion of translucent panels across the trellis still needs to be carried out, but the completion of the installation is a sign of how preparations at the Expo 2020 site are entering the final stages. Finishing works are also taking place on structures such as the Sustainability Pavilion and UAE Pavilion; the roads and car parks have been completed; and the Route 2020 metro line, which will have the capacity to ferry up to 44,000 passengers an hour to and from the site, is also in the final stages of construction, with test runs expected to start in February 2020. Landscaping work has meanwhile begun on the expo site’s Al-Fursan and Jubilee parks.
Work in progress
Structures still under construction include the Mobility Pavilion and Dubai Exhibition Centre, which is being undertaken by Dubai World Trade Centre. Design works on the Opportunity Pavilion were completed in July 2019, after facing setbacks due to the replacement of the design consultant on the project. Construction on this pavilion is expected to commence this year.
Independent country pavilions have also begun to take shape. Of the 192 countries participating, 34 have revealed their pavilion designs. Nearly 80 countries will undertake self-built structures, while the remainder will utilise expo-built structures.
Many of the countries have unveiled concepts for special exhibits in the lead up to the event. For instance, the Netherlands Pavilion will harvest water, energy and food through innovations including a cone-shaped vertical farm. The Ukrainian Pavilion will display inventions ranging from an e-bike that can travel 380 kilometres on a single charge, to blinds that use sunlight to generate electricity.
With construction either under way or nearly complete, Expo 2020 has shifted focus to awarding non-construction contracts – primarily for operational activities, including programming and event readiness roles such as cleaning, facilities management and IT services. To date, Expo 2020 has awarded 7,214 non-construction contracts, worth approximately AED2.8bn ($762.4m), to 1,000 companies.
Meanwhile, more than 37,400 suppliers from 151 countries have registered to do business on the expo’s eSourcing portal, the online marketplace (OMP) that allows users to showcase their products, services and expertise to Expo 2020 and its participants, licensees and contractors.
“As of the end of August 2019, SMEs had won AED3.6bn in contracts through Expo 2020,” says Tina Ghanem, the expo’s director of OMP. “With SMEs having won 55.4 per cent of all contracts so far, Expo 2020 remains committed to its promise of diverting 20 per cent of direct and indirect spending to the sector.”
Expo 2020 legacy
When the expo culminates in April 2021, the spotlight will shift to the next phase of the project – District 2020.
“The longevity of the expo site has always been integral to the project,” says Marjan Faraidooni, senior vice-president of legacy development and impact at Expo 2020 Dubai. “We’ve spent a lot of time planning how to repurpose the Expo 2020 buildings and infrastructure, and ultimately create a permanent new community – a destination that will set standards for decades to come.”
Nearly 80 per cent of expo-built structures will be retained beyond the event, including Al-Wasl Plaza, the UAE Pavilion, and the Sustainability and Mobility Pavilions. Siemens and Accenture have committed to establishing hubs in the city, and digital connectivity is being embedded throughout the site’s infrastructure using 5G technology.
“Our ambition is to write a new chapter in the UAE’s development with an ecosystem that will offer opportunities for global organisations to connect and collaborate, while also being a highly accessible place for people to live and work,” says Faraidooni.