Al Wasl Plaza ... a 130-m-wide, 67.5-m-tall domed space.

Al Wasl Plaza ... a 130-m-wide, 67.5-m-tall domed space.

World-class showcase

The delivery of the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region is well under way and making good progress, the organiser of the world-class event tells Gulf Construction.

April 2019

The countdown has started: with less than two years to go until the curtains are raised on Expo 2020 Dubai, construction is well advanced on all areas of the 4.38-sq-km Expo site and all buildings continue to rise from the ground level.

To date, more than 70 million work hours have been completed on the site where there are currently about 37,000 workers. At the peak of construction in H1 2019, about 40,000 workers – both manual and non-manual – are expected on site, including employees of third-party stakeholders and participating countries.

The Expo site is located within the Dubai South district, close to Al Maktoum International Airport and easily reached from Dubai International Airport, Abu Dhabi International Airport and Dubai and Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminals.

Approximately 2 sq km will form the Expo gated area, while the remaining 2.4 sq km will feature supporting amenities and facilities, including the Expo 2020 Village for participant and staff accommodation, warehousing, logistics, transport nodes, hotels, retail and a public park.

The gated area will feature 190 individual country pavilions that will showcase the unique architecture, culture and exhibits that their countries wish to present. It will include a wide variety of food and retail options and visitors will be able to taste dishes from around the world and explore unique shopping experiences.

The three Theme Districts are central to the design of the masterplan and reflect the themes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability. These pavilions will house interactive exhibitions and engaging content to explore the themes in a fun and entertaining way. Each Theme District will also include performance spaces, innovation galleries and art installations and outdoor gardens. There is also a children’s park and a full events programme for families.

The Expo site will also include extensive hospitality, as well as private hospitality opportunities and state-of-the-art conference and meeting spaces and entertainment areas that will be made available for private hire.

Expo 2020 Dubai aims to generate at least half of its energy from renewable sources.

Development works at the physical Expo 2020 Dubai site began in March 2016. UAE-based companies are playing a leading role in the construction effort, including Al-Futtaim Carillion, Khansaheb, Besix, Arabtec and Tristar Engineering, as well as early works completed by Al Naboodah Construction.

All major design elements are complete – the last being the iconic Al Wasl Plaza, a 130-m-wide, 67.5-m-tall domed space that will be enjoyed by millions of visitors. The development of Al Wasl Plaza is being managed by Meraas, with the steel work for the dome trellis provided by Cimolai Rimond Middle East.

The Sustainability Pavilion, designed by Grimshaw Architects, explores the potential for buildings to be self-sustaining in water and energy, by using innovative combinations of technologies to harvest solar power and water from the air. It will also be a key part of Expo 2020’s legacy, as a children and science centre.

The Opportunity Pavilion, unveiled in September 2018, aims to transform millions of visitors into individual forces of change. Expo 2020 has recruited a world-class team of architects, designers and curators to develop the pavilion, with Australia-based Cox Architecture and UK company Event Communications winning an international bidding process to design the building and curate the exhibition, respectively.

“Fully built from organic, recyclable materials – with no cement – the structure features a spiral-shaped canopy made from 111 km of woven rope, symbolising the essential role of collaboration in achieving our common goals,” says a spokesman for Real Estate and Delivery at Expo 2020.

He says 190 countries have confirmed their participation in Expo 2020 Dubai, meaning Expo has surpassed the 180-nation commitment set out in its successful 2013 bid to host the next World Expo.

The global six-month celebration of creativity, innovation, humanity and world cultures commences on October 20 next year.



“Dubai won the bid to host the 2020 World Expo in November 2013. From that day, we embarked on the journey towards hosting an exceptional Expo, creating a global collaborative platform that leaves a lasting legacy for the UAE and participants,” says the spokesman.

Expo 2020 will help to achieve the UAE Vision 2021 by increasing tourism, developing innovative businesses, and contributing to the country’s international reputation as a location to do business.

Expo 2020 has put a special emphasis on small- and medium enterprises (SMEs), believing that they are key to future growth and job creation in the UAE.

Expo 2020 is expected to also have a major impact on the economic and social fronts, the spokesman says.

 “Expo 2020 continues to provide businesses of all sizes economic opportunities, directly and indirectly. To date, more than 25,000 suppliers from 149 countries are registered to do business with Expo 2020.

“This includes small and medium-sized businesses, which continue to be a priority in winning contracts. Currently, more than half of all Expo 2020 contracts have been awarded to SMEs,” he says.

“Expo’s theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ continues to inspire us on our journey to 2020. Before, during and after the next World Expo, we will continue to create opportunities that connect people from every corner of the world and spark ideas that will have a lasting impact.

“Expo 2020’s global innovation and partnership programme Expo Live has an allocated $100 million to back projects that offer creative solutions to pressing challenges, helping to improve people’s lives or preserve the planet – or both,” he says.

“World Expos have always been about innovation and, through Expo Live’s grants and support, Expo 2020 Dubai is taking this tradition to the next level. By stimulating the development of ideas that will inspire millions of visitors, we aim to help change-makers improve the lives of many millions more,” the spokesman adds.



 Ensuring a meaningful and lasting legacy post-Expo 2020 Dubai has been part of the planning since the beginning, based on four pillars: physical, economic, social and reputational.

“At least 80 per cent of the Expo-built structures will be transformed into District 2020, a new urban experience that will continue to foster collaboration, creation and innovation. It will boast the latest trends in modern living, blending work and recreation, with 65,000 sq m of residential space and 135,000 sq m of commercial space in a location that will be home to world-class innovation, educational, cultural and entertainment facilities, as well as a conference and exhibition centre (CoEx) built by Dubai World Trade Centre,” the spokesman says.

Two of the official premier partners, Accenture and Siemens, have already committed to establishing a permanent presence in District 2020. Siemens will establish its global headquarters for airports, cargo and ports logistics at the site, and Accenture will open a digital hub in District 2020, he points out.

The Sustainability Pavilion will become a Children and Science Centre post-Expo, continuing to educate and inspire youth to be responsible future custodians of our planet. Many other major structures, including Al Wasl Plaza and the Mobility Pavilion, will remain as permanent fixtures in District 2020.



To date, Expo 2020 Dubai has announced 11 premier partners, five official partners and two official providers. These partnerships play a vital role in delivering a successful Expo 2020 Dubai and supporting its legacy.  

More Stories