Ever heard of the world’s biggest lift? You can take it at Expo 2020 Dubai. What about the largest 360-degree projection surface? See it for yourself at the world fair this October. Even the fastest mass transit system is no longer the bullet train but something called the Hyperloop that leaves behind airplanes in the dust – again, come and have a look at its demo in Dubai. This staggering, history-making, jaw-dropping tech has caught the eye of ‘Time’ magazine, quoting the role Dubai is playing in ‘Bringing the world together’.
Among 100 unique destinations, the publication crowns Dubai as one of the world’s greatest places to visit this year, steering global attention to the famed World Expo the emirate will be hosting for six months from October 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022. The list, which includes Athens, Hanoi, Cannes, Helsinki and more, is an ode to the fierce resilience and undefeated creativity showcased by people and businesses from all over the world – a world that has been forever transformed in our battle against the coronavirus pandemic.
When Expo 2020 Dubai entered its last leg of preparations last year, the impending global health crisis drove the host city to step back and propose a delayed opening. With swift agreement from Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), the World Expos awarding body, the event’s trajectory had changed; goals were realigned and objectives renewed. Expo 2020 Dubai is now enlisting great minds to brainstorm actionable solutions for humanity learning to adapt in a post-pandemic world.
The city’s remarkable endurance aside, Expo 2020 Dubai deservedly relishes in the limelight for the many wondrous inventions and attractions slated to wow the public for 182 days. ‘Time’ marvels at the Italy Pavilion’s 3D-printed replica of Michelangelo’s David statue and the Singapore Pavilion’s hanging gardens. We’re bringing you an extensive list of further innovations that you can be the first to witness at the world exposition.
Relax under rotating solar e-trees
Situated at the crown of the 4.38-square-kilometre Expo site, Terra – The Sustainability Pavilion dominates its own district called the Sustainability District. Walking into this pavilion feels like toeing the line between the present and the future. You are met with gigantic Energy Trees among actual flora, and another tree-shaped impersonator that can harvest water from the surrounding air.
Grimshaw Architects, the masterminds behind the net-zero energy and water building, designed 18 multi-tasking trees to harvest solar energy and offer ambling visitors shade under their wide disc canopies. Far from static showpieces, the e-trees actually move with the sun’s path across the sky. Using six solar panels fitted to each canopy, the sunflower-like structures collect plenty of sunlight by facing the sun at all times.
Take the largest passenger lift in the world
Alif – The Mobility Pavilion, nestled at the tip of the Mobility District, is the perfect place for techies to geek out. This is where you will find the world’s largest mobile platform that can carry up to 160 passengers at a time (38 based on current social distancing restrictions) to the third floor of the pavilion.
Stop a while to marvel at the futuristic design of the pavilion by Foster + Partners, seemingly resembling a larger-than-life fidget spinner with three wings. Looping around and under the building is a 330-metre mobility track for cool mobility devices to whizz past curious visitors.
Watch shows on the largest 360-degree projection surface
Bringing together the three district wings (Sustainability, Opportunity and Mobility) is a harmonious point of convergence known as the Al Wasl Plaza – Expo’s jewel designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture. The striking 130-metre-wide and 67.5-metre-high dome of the plaza also happens to be the biggest 360-degree projection surface the world has ever seen.
National day celebrations and cultural festivities along with formal ceremonies will be unveiled inside the heart of Expo with the help of 250 projectors. Every day, Al Wasl Plaza will come alive from within and out, marking sunsets and sunrises with unique audio-visual shows.
See 3D-printed statue of Michelangelo’s David
Italy Pavilion has a treat for museum trotters and art lovers. Italian Renaissance sculptor and painter Michelangelo would have never imagined that his marble sculpture of the Biblical hero David would be replicated by a 3D printer some 400 years later.
Italy achieved this 21st-century feat using one of the world’s largest 3D printers after 40 hours of digital scanning and jotting down details through high-tech cameras. David’s acrylic twin stands at the original height of 17 feet, brushed with marble dust for a realistic finishing, at the heart of the pavilion. Learn all about the process in the pavilion and snap pictures with the prominent 16th-century artwork without travelling to Florence.
Spot Expo logo on mashrabiya-inspired Entry Portals
If you come in through one of the three District gates of the fair, namely Sustainability, Mobility and Opportunity, you will have to pass a 30-metre-long passageway, shaded by a carbon-fibre latticework overhead. The three identical cubic structures designed by well-known British architect Asif Khan are dubbed 'Entry Portals' that will lead visitors to the event and into a different dimension.
Inspired by mashrabiya architecture, a hallmark feature of the Islamic civilisation, the skeletal portals will keep visitors cool and reflect the official Expo 2020 logo in its geometric makeup. So keep your eyes peeled for the illusion as you pass by the 21-metre-tall gates, whose doors are so light that a single person could swing them open.
USA’s SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket, tallest structure at Expo
Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX was the first to reuse an orbital rocket called the Falcon 9 in 2017, leaving behind an era of expendable rockets that were discarded after single use. In honour of the historic milestone, a replica of the rocket will deliver the USA’s achievements in the space sector but also turn heads by becoming the tallest structure on Expo grounds.
At 42 metres or 14-storeys tall, the one-to-one scale rocket will sit in the heart of the US Pavilion, where other out-of-orbit attractions include Moon rocks from the Apollo 12 mission.
Tread in cool water as you explore Brazilian sights
Brazil Pavilion’s grounds are unique in the sense that the floor is covered in refrigerated water, so remove your shoes and get ready for a refreshing aquatic experience. The depth of the shallow water mirror will range anywhere from 6cm to 18cm, and with onsite solutions, the organisers assure that visitors will not be getting wet.
There’s more to than just dipping your toes in water here. Mimicking an outdoor cinema, the white membrane walls and ceiling of the pavilion will transform into a theatre packed with 125 projectors. At night, watch what it would be like to take part in the world-famous Brazilian Carnival and get lost in the lush sights of the Amazonia.
Converse with a table at Poland Pavilion
The Poland Pavilion is fitted with numerous sensors to allow visitors to enjoy their offerings at a safe distance. One of its voice-activated sensors is embedded into an art centrepiece called The Polish Table, which will teach you how to speak in Polish among other interactions. Some basic phrases you can expect to learn are ‘dzień dobry’ for ‘good morning’ and ‘dziękuję’ for ‘thank you’ at the table.
Europe's first Hyperloop demo in Spain Pavilion
A model of the Spanish-developed Z01 Hyperloop will be showcased at the pavilion. The hyperloop is a proposed futuristic mode of transport that can travel up to 1000km in an hour on ground, making it swifter than airplanes.
Paper-thin solar panels power food cone in Netherlands Pavilion
Apparently, water, energy and food can be sourced at once with the help of some sunshine. In a 19-metre-tall cone, all of this and more is happening at the Netherlands Pavilion. Its vertical farm will be irrigated using water harvested from the air, and powering this Dutch technology with clean energy are 60 colourful, paper-thin (0.4mm) solar panels designed by Marjan van Aubel.
While these ink-printed (and organic) solar cells convert energy, they also play a part in the aesthetics, dousing the pavilion in hues of red, blue and orange as stained glass would.
Visitors carrying umbrellas will get to explore the inside of the food cone, where they will see oyster mushrooms growing in the damp micro-climate. On the exterior, the cone is home to cress, basil and other sprouting greens. As tempting as they might look, do keep in mind that these edibles are not up for tasting.
Hanging gardens of Singapore Pavilion
Those longing for green sights and earthy scents can venture into Singapore’s rainforest-themed pavilion. The vegetation will spring not only around you but also above you in this verdant space, bringing the lush urban landscape of the city-state to Dubai. So, grab a book, hit play on your zen playlist and take a leisurely stroll under the hanging gardens of the pavilion that look a lot like those in Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay nature park.
Leave a message for the aliens at UK Pavilion
Late Stephen Hawking believed humans on Earth should be prepared with a collective message in case we manage to communicate with alien intelligent life forms. He called this initiative the ‘Breakthrough Message’, co-signed by the legendary theoretical physicist and his colleagues in 2015. The UK Pavilion allows you to do just that with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) and the country’s long lineage of literary giants.
All you have to do is donate a word that you think sums up our existence then go about the rest of your pavilion journey. Once you exit the building, the façade’s LED lights will beam back an ever-changing collective message you helped create with other visitors.
And if you’re concerned about whether it’s going to make sense, the AI has been trained on more than 100 British poets for a metered cadence. By coming into the UK Pavilion, you will have inadvertently composed poetry.
Compose a symphony of Jordan
The Jordan Pavilion offers yet another opportunity for collaborative composition at Expo 2020 Dubai. Visitors will live out their music writing dreams in an interactive zone called 'The Portal', where various points are tied to traditional musical instruments such as the rabab, oud and ney. By tapping these hotspots, you can compose a unique symphony of Jordan surrounded by the vistas of Petra.
25 million visits, 191 countries and a lasting legacy
Since 1851, the World Expos have led the discovery of numerous breakthrough innovations that we cannot do without today – our QWERTY keyboards, touchscreen devices, wireless phones, electric cars and even ketchup. At this exhibition, too, the legacy of expos will continue to change lives for the better.
More than 200 participants, including 191 countries, will gather to host 25 million visits, but once the affair is over, Expo 2020 Dubai will live on not only in name but through a tangible legacy. Come October 2022, the site is going to become a city in its own right, one that is smart and sustainable yet human-centric and accessible.
- The writer is an intern with Gulf News.