Dubai: Exactly one year from now Dubai will showcase the World’s Greatest Show.
See all that has gone into preparing the Expo 2020 site, plus a few highlights of the ongoing construction.
What is Expo 2020 Dubai?
Expo 2020 Dubai is a World Expo that’s going to be hosted by Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. A World Expo is a mega international event in terms of size, scale, and duration and visitor numbers.
It’s a festival and a platform where people from all over the world come together and connect with each other, share ideas, learn and innovate. It’s also a place you can come and have fun.
About Expo 2020 Dubai
Expo 2020 Dubai is the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, and the first to be hosted by an Arab nation.
What is the area of the Expo 2020 site and where is it located
The Expo 2020 site spans 4.38 square kilometers and is located in the Dubai South district, close to Al Maktoum International Airport and within easy reach of Dubai International Airport, Abu Dhabi International Airport and Dubai and Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminals. The site will also have its own metro station, capable of transporting 36,000 passengers per hour.
How can I reach the site
By car it will take you 40 minutes to reach the Expo site from Downtown Dubai.
Preparing the Expo 2020 site
Construction of pavillions
With Expo 2020 just one year away, work on the pavilions is progressing smoothly with most of the primary construction already completed and the remaining will be completed by the end of the year.
The BNC Network, which tracks projects in the UAE and GCC region, is tracking 69 Expo 2020 pavilions that are currently in different stages of construction.
Around 56 per cent of the pavilions being tracked by BNC Network are under construction while the rest 44 per cent are in the pipeline.
Some of the other major pavilions where the work is underway are those in India, Pakistan, Germany, the US, the UK, Oman, Netherlands, France, China, New Zealand and others. Some of the pavilions will be retained as part of legacy under District 2020.
Interesting flora and fauna discovered onsite
A colony of honey bees were discovered on the Expo 2020 Dubai site has been successfully relocated , thanks to a team effort by the World Expo’s Sustainability department, the Beekeepers Association and a courageous construction worker who discovered the bees during construction.
The bees have been identified as the Apis mellifera, not native to the UAE. The bees nested in a pile of steel rebar on the plot of the Sustainability Pavilion. In line with Expo 2020 subtheme of sustainability, the entire 4.38 square kilometer of site is pesticide-free.
The bees had not built a honeycomb yet. This means they had barely nested less than 24 hours on the steel bar when they were spotted by the construction worker.
Construction temporarily halted to safely relocate bees
Construction is said to have been temporarily halted in order to make arrangements for the safe relocation of the bees.
Salar Memon, Environmental and Sustainability Engineer at ASGC, and the person who discovered the nest, said: “I never expected to find a colony of honey bees living on a construction site but, once I discovered the insects, I knew something had to be done. That is why I volunteered to help Expo 2020 and the Beekeepers Association with the rescue; I wanted to make sure the bees found a new home.”
The colony has since doubled in size and visitors to Expo 2020 may even have an opportunity to taste some of the honey produced by the hive.
Let’s just say sustainability has never tasted so sweet.
Wait there were more interesting flora and fauna discovered onsite before they were safely relocated.
A spiny-tailed lizard, a protected species often nicknamed ‘little dinosaur’ because of its scaly appearance, is among the wildlife discovered onsite and safely relocated during Expo 2020 construction.
The prehistoric-looking reptile, Uromastyx aegyptia leptieni, and an Arabian sand boa snake, Eryx jayakari, were recently relocated from the 4.38 sqkm site. These discoveries follow the successful rehoming of a colony of honey bees earlier this year.
The spiny-tailed lizard, which can grow to more than 70cm long and is locally known in Arabic as ‘dhub’, was passed to Dubai Municipality, while the harmless sand boa was successfully released back into the desert, its natural habitat.
Other animals including foxes, gazelles and Arabian hares, have been responsibly relocated since Expo construction began.
What is more, the site’s carefully cultivated flora has inspired the animated story of Salama.
Expo 2020 construction highlight: The final touches to Al Wasl dome
Last month, the final piece of the Al Wasl dome was successfully lifted into place after months of planning and a complex construction operation.
What is Al Wasl?
Al Wasl dome encircles the Al Wasl Plaza that sits at the heart of the Expo 2020 Dubai site. It will be the focal point for the celebrations over the six months from 20 October 2020 to 10 April 2021, and is set to become Dubai’s newest iconic landmark. More than one million man hours have been completed on the structure to date.
The crowning of the dome is a key milestone for Expo 2020 Dubai, with all permanent Expo-led construction on track to be completed by the end of the year, say officials.
The dome’s huge steel crown was positioned in an inspiring feat of precision engineering. Enclosing a space of 724,000 cubic metres and standing 67.5 metres tall (higher than the Leaning Tower of Pisa), the 130-metre-wide domed steel trellis is made up of 1,162 individual curved steel sections.
According to Chief Development and Delivery Officer Expo 2020 Dubai, Ahmed Al Khatib, “The trellis canopy has stretched fabric for shading.”
The grand trellis serves as both an inspirational and performative architectural feature to enhance the use of Al Wasl.
It includes integrated lighting and projection systems for events, and will form a stunning 360-degree projection surface, with projections visible both from within and outside the dome, providing a unique visitor experience.
It will be fitted with state-of-the-art projectors by audio-visual experts Christie, Expo 2020’s Official Displays and Projection Partner”
Al Khatib calls this the “most exhilarating day of my entire career. We had one chance to get this right.”
New architectural marvel
Weighing 550 tonnes of moulded steel, Al Wasl dome’s 22.5-metre crown had to be precisely positioned on top of the vertical trellis, with a margin of error of only three millimetres.
It was completed using a technique called strand-jacking. Including the structures and equipment required to lift the dome during this process, the total weight was 830 tonnes — equivalent to 600 saloon cars.
How was it done?
Eighteen hydraulic jacks, aided by steel lifting ropes connected to 18 freestanding temporary columns, were used to slowly raise the curved steel crown.
It was positioned directly on top of the trellis already in place 45 metres above the ground, and attached using 53 temporary connection brackets.
Working through the night, 800 engineers and construction technicians carefully monitored every millimetre of the process, using GPS indicators throughout to ensure perfect alignment.
To retain the geometry of the trellis structure as it was lifted, a series of tension cables was installed, connecting the perimeter of the trellis crown to a central temporary compression ring. Multiple test lifts were conducted to measure the movement of the structure as it was lifted off the ground.
The tensioned cables were adjusted until the trellis perimeter connection points were in the positions required for the full lift to commence.
Al Wasl dome’s crowning was the culmination of 14 months of preparation, beginning when the final pieces of the dome’s steel trellising left Italy on 26 June 2018.
The individual elements first arrived in Dubai in July 2018 and the crown was carefully assembled at ground level before being raised into place.
Now positioned, the final piece of Al Wasl dome will be welded to the rest of the trellis, a process that will take 25 days to complete.
The urban room
The Al Wasl Plaza has been designed to form a grand ‘urban room’, a meeting place that creates a shaded microclimate that simultaneously encompasses vibrant performances and natural landscaping. The name Al Wasl means ‘connection’ in Arabic.
Dates and times of Expo 2020
• Opening day: October 20, 2020
• Closing day: April 10, 2021
Site opening hours
• Weekdays: 9am-1am
• Weekends and special days: 10am-2am