Asif Khan completes monumental gateways for Expo 2020

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Asif Khan completes monumental gateways for Expo 2020

The 70-foot-tall structures will welcome visitors to the expo’s three districts. (Hélène Binet/Courtesy Expo 2020)

While the pavilions for Expo 2020 Dubai are currently under various stages of construction, three monumental gateways to the 1,083-acre fair site are now among the first elements to be completed. Built using a woven carbon fiber composite, the three 70-foot-tall, freestanding “gateway” structures are both incredibly lightweight without compromising durability or requiring any additional support, lending them an ethereal quality under the Arabian sun.

The installations’ delicate infrastructure is the product of over three years of collaboration between London-based architecture firm Asif Khan Ltd., a manufacturer specializing in carbon composites, and an aircraft engineer. Their intricate patterning was engineered to not only strike a balance between material efficiency, shading, airflow, manufacturing time, and structural strength but to also reference the mashrabiya, an ornamental window type used in homes across the region to extend beyond their property lines. The combination of vernacular aesthetics and technological ingenuity reflects the spirit of Dubai’s inaugural expo, which seeks to remind attendants that while the city has gained international recognition in the last half-century, it also has hundreds of years of culture on display as well.

A freestanding lattice of wires with the sun shining through
Woven carbon fiber allowed the project to achieve lightness without compromising structural durability. (Hélène Binet/Courtesy Expo 2020)

During the 173 days of the event, guests will enter through 34-foot-tall operable doorways to enter each of the three Expo 2020 districts: Opportunity, Mobility, and Sustainability. “The portals will be the first and last encountering moment for all who make the journey to Expo 2020 Dubai,” Asif Khan said in a press statement, “and these capture the very transcendental moment the region is experiencing as it hosts its first World Expo—the celebration not only of UAE’s heritage, but also the future.”

The structures are the first pieces unveiled from Asif Khans commission for Expo 2020 Public Realm, a 3.7-mile linear park that will also include a running track and seating co-designed with Lara Captan. “Designing the Public Realm for Expo 2020 Dubai is a seminal moment for my practice,” Khan added. “Each aspect of the design invites visitors to immerse themselves in shared Islamic culture, art and language in dialogue with the future spirit of Expo.” Of course, Asif Khan is no stranger to designing otherworldly temporary installations; the firm’s Vantablack-coated pavilion, resembling a slice of outer space, turned heads when it touched down in Seoul for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Expo 2020 will open its doors to the public on October 20 and will remain open until Apr 10, 2021.