Although Expo 2020 Dubai is now technically Expo 2021 Dubai given that the massive six-month global event was pushed back a full year due to the coronavirus pandemic with a new opening on October 1, 2021, much of the site—over 1,000 acres in the south of Dubai near the border of the neighboring emirate, Abu Dhabi—is now complete or nearing completion. Although a small number of planned World Expositions have been outright canceled in the past, this is the first time that a major Bureau International des Expositions (BIE)-sanctioned expo has been postponed. Despite the significant delay, organizers are sticking with the Expo 2020 name for marketing purposes.
To showcase the “advanced state of readiness across” the Expo 2020 complex and keep the momentum going for a quinquennial event that was originally slated to be happening now, organizers have unveiled a slew of photography depicting the site’s triad of thematic districts (Sustainability, Mobility, Opportunity) and their corresponding pavilions and monumental “entry portals.” These structures and others featured in newly released photography are designed by the likes of Grimshaw Architects, Foster + Partners, Asif Kahn, Hopkins Architects, and on.
Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture have designed what’s perhaps Expo 2020’s most conspicuous structure, an over 200-foot-tall dome that acts as a 360-degree projection surface at Al Wasl Plaza. Each of the three petal-shaped districts within the HOK-master-planned site radiate from Al Wasl Plaza, which has been described as the “heart” of Expo 2020.
In addition to sharing images of progress across the ultra-futuristic site, organizers have also reiterated their commitment to producing Expo 2020 (in 2021): “Expo 2020 is fully prepared to host a global celebration of humanity’s resilience, creativity, culture and innovation—a tribute to the resilience of humanity, its ability to innovate, and pursuit of optimism in the face of adversity,” reads a recent news release. The theme of Expo 2020, the first non-specialized World Exposition to be held in the Middle East, is Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.
Somewhat of a last minute entry, Dubai was selected to host Expo 2020 via BIE voting in 2013, beating out bids from Yekaterinburg, Russia; Izmir, Turkey; and São Paulo, Brazil. Osaka, Japan, was selected by the BIE in 2018 to host Expo 2025. Although it predates the 1928 establishment of the BIE, the first major World Expo, the Great Exhibition, was hosted in London in 1851 at the Crystal Palace.
As noted in a press statement, a staggering 210 million work hours at the World Expo 2020 site have been logged to date as work continues on landscaping elements and fitting-out various Expo-owned structures, which will be left standing after the conclusion of the event on March 21, 2022. Construction of the individual national pavilions—currently, over 190 different countries from Afghanistan through Zimbabwe are slated to participate in Expo 2020 although only a fraction of them will have standalone pavilions—is expected to wrap up by the end of the year.
As previously reported, the United States Pavilion, located in the Mobility District, is designed by Woods Bagot while other notable pavilions include Austria (Querkraft Architekten), Belgium (Assar Architects and Vincent Callebaut Architectures), the United Kingdom (Es Devlin) and Morocco (OUALALOU + CHOI). Ringed by wing-shaped exterior panels that suggest a falcon in flight, the most prominently sited national pavilion belongs, naturally, to the United Arab Emirates. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, the four-story structure is located at Al Wasl Plaza in lieu of being located in one of the three districts like the other national pavilions.
“As we mark a year to go until we open, I want to thank all those who work so hard and so passionately to deliver an exceptional Exp,” said Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director-General of Expo 2020 Dubai Bureau, in a statement. “From international participants, to government entities to the Expo tribe that has worked diligently and remained committed to bringing the event to fruition. The journey has been worth it, and in 365 days we will share our excitement and our passion with millions.”