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Apart from residential and commercial spaces, District 2020 will also have two parks and bike and jogging tracks Image Credit: Supplied

For six months from October next year, the Expo 2020 Dubai site will be one of the most connected places in the world. But what happens after that? What happens to the Expo assets, to the art, architecture, pavilions and innovative designs on display?

The legacy of Expo 2020 will remain as District 2020, an integrated community that will connect people long into the future. District 2020 will continue to support the acceleration of Dubai’s development and will be a home for innovators, families, artists and pioneers.

Property Weekly met Marjan Faraidooni, Chief Pavilions and Exhibitions Officer of Expo 2020 Dubai, to understand the concept of legacy and how it translates into this “city within the city”.

In addition to her current role, Faraidooni oversees the strategy development and execution of the Expo 2020 Dubai legacy programme, which includes District 2020.

“It’s a huge responsibility,” she admits. “The Expo 2020 Dubai site spans almost three million square metres. Over 80 per cent of its built environment will be retained for District 2020,” says Faraidooni. “I have been working with the Executive Office since the beginning of my career and although I am familiar with projects of this scale, but it’s still a huge responsibility that I carry on my shoulders. But there is a plan in place and we are all working towards it. It’s great to be part of this and feel the pulse of the new city.”

District 2020, she explains, has been carefully planned to support the UAE’s future vision by enabling sustainable economic development, moving towards an innovation-driven economy and creating a business environment that directly encourages progress within key growth industries.

How important has the question of legacy been as part of planning for Expo 2020 Dubai?

Ever since we started, the legacy question has been the cornerstone for planning for Expo 2020 Dubai. This follows the direction we received from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. He told us that any investment that we make towards the Expo, we have to think very carefully about how we maximise its use in the future. Therefore, it was very clear from the beginning that while we have a city that’s hosting a world expo for six months with a lot of planning going on for the buildings as well as infrastructure, it was equally important to think of this place as a “city of the future” that would continue to host visitors, businesses and people from across the globe to live, work, play and set up businesses here — a place that we later called in 2017 as District 2020.

How do you imagine District 2020 to be?

We imagine this to be an integrated community that will welcome visitors and businesses and people of different backgrounds to come and live here. We are inheriting wonderful cultural assets from the Expo 2020 Dubai period and we would like to hold on to them for our future generations. These assets would be part of District 2020. For example, one of the major pavilions of Expo 2020 Dubai focuses on sustainability. The Sustainability Pavilion will remain as a Children and Science Centre after the Expo, inspiring children about sustainability. Also, the Dubai Exhibition Centre that is being built here as an extension of the exhibition centre near downtown will continue to be built even after the Expo and will provide an overall space of 180,000 sq m to host events and exhibitions even after the Expo is over.

District 2020 will also provide great infrastructure for businesses to flourish. Our vision is to curate an innovation district that brings in multiple players.

We want the big corporates to be here together with the smaller businesses and start-up communities. Both these players should value each other. We imagine that as an integrated community, District 2020 will welcome people to live in the residential units that will be built here. So yes, at the heart of District 2020 there will be neighbourhoods that will be home to offices, collaborative workspaces, residential communities, social and cultural attractions, parks, cycling and running tracks and a host of business and leisure amenities.

The city has been designed to maximise flexibility and connectivity, and is built to some of the most progressive sustainability standards. We are looking at the comfort of the visitors and residents and the organisations that come here.

How much of what we see at Expo 2020 Dubai will go into District 2020?

Almost 80 per cent of what you will see at Expo 2020 Dubai will be repurposed to go into District 2020. The Expo master plan has three petal-like structures. These petals are the main assets of Expo 2020 and cover almost 209,072 sq m of built-up area. We have buildings within the petals, as well as around them.

During the Expo, these buildings will be used by the countries exhibiting and also by food and beverage outlets. After the Expo, all these 86 buildings will be repurposed as offices and residences. While the ones within the petals will be made fit-out ready for commercial entities, we have zoned out the residential buildings closer to the petals. These will be designed keeping in mind the average age of people living here. We want to offer different styles, such as loft living, to cater to a younger generation.

After Expo 2020 Dubai, the Al Wasl Plaza will remain. The dome and the garden in the middle of it will host events for residents and visitors post Expo. We are also building other cultural elements during Expo that will be a part of the legacy. In the next couple of months, we will let you know more about the artists whose work will be the main features around the site.

The Sustainability Pavilion will become Terra — the Children and Science Centre, the Mobility pavilion is ear-marked to become a commercial building and the UAE Pavilion will be managed by the UAE government. There will also be the two hotels with 650 keys that will remain and the two parks with cycling tracks and water features.

How are exhibitor countries choosing to showcase their exhibitions?

We have 190 nations from around the world exhibiting. Countries can either choose to showcase their exhibition in a building that Expo has built for them or they can take a plot of land from Expo to build their own pavilions, like Thailand, the UK and New Zealand have done. It really depends whether they want to create a whole structure for their exhibition or they just need a space for their exhibition.

What kind of support are you getting from your strategic partners?

Siemens is one of our strategic partners for Expo 2020 Dubai and it has helped us fit out most of the buildings with smart systems that will help in the efficient use of energy. So we are inheriting this sustainability feature in the legacy stage and that’s an added value. Siemens’ digital building management system will also be used to monitor and control building functions, such as air conditioning, energy usage, lighting, lifts, air quality and fire alarms. Also, data collected through MindSphere — Siemens’ cloud-based operating system for the Internet of Things — will improve energy efficiency, while also maximising safety, security and comfort. We are working with other technology partners such as Accenture, Cisco, Etisalat, Mastercard, SAP, Siemens and DarkMatter to deliver a connected site with smart infrastructure that will continue to offer benefits for years to come

What kind of new-age concepts shall we see in District 2020?

We are trying to understand the market trends and we know we will be dealing with a new workforce that’s younger and more connected. We are looking more into co-working spaces and will address the new flexible working environment. We are also powering our site with Etisalat’s 5G network that will be approximately 20 times faster than today’s 4G technology, allowing users to live stream 4K resolution video anywhere at any time. Our cornerstone is trying to curate this city that has different types of tenants in it.

District 2020

Site area: 2.7 sq km

Location of District 2020: the Expo 2020 Dubai site will be the future location of District 2020

Accessibility: Located within Dubai South, near Al Maktoum International Airport, District 2020 will be easily accessible from all of the UAE’s air and sea ports. It will be served by a dedicated Dubai Metro Route 2020 station and major highways.

Main features:

• Social and cultural attractions

• Flexible and collaborative office spaces

• Modern residential communities

• Two parks

• Business and leisure amenities

Handover date: Q4 2021

Space available for rent: A total of 209,072 sq m of commercial and residential space,

Plots available for sale: 108 serviced land plots for residential, mixed, commercial and hospitality.

Companies involved in the design of District 2020:

• Foster + Partners: Mobility Thematic Pavilion (District 2020 commercial and educational building)

• Grimshaw Architects: Sustainability Thematic Pavilion (District 2020 Children and Science Centre)

• Santiago Calatrava: UAE Pavilion

• Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture: Al Wasl Plaza

• Hopkins Architects: Residential and commercial areas

• Masterplan: AECOM

• Infrastructure: Parsons

• Public realm: Asif Khan

— Information courtesy: District 2020