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Everything you need to know about Al Wasl Plaza: the heart of Expo 2020 Dubai

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Expo 2020

Everything you need to know about Al Wasl Plaza: the heart of Expo 2020 Dubai

The world’s first look at expo, the 360-degree dome will be the main staging area for the opening ceremony on October 20

Ramola Talwar Badam

Ramola Talwar Badam

January 31, 2020

Driving up to the sprawling Expo 2020 site, it is impossible not to notice Al Wasl Plaza.

The expansive dome is one of the most easily identified structure at the Dubai South site.

Described as the ‘crown jewel’ and ‘beating heart’ of Expo 2020, its construction is one that engineers and staff are the most proud of.

Meaning ‘connection’ in English, Al Wasl is also the historical name for Dubai. The steel trellis is the centrepiece of the site, where all roads meet, and reflects the world fair’s aim to bring people together.

It connects the three main zones of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability — the central themes of the expo.

Thousands of visitors will congregate at the plaza, which is near the striking falcon-wing inspired UAE pavilion, Dubai Metro and the seven entrances and exits to the world fair.

The world’s first look at expo, the 360-degree dome will be the main staging area for the opening ceremony on October 20. It will also host performances, concerts and events throughout during the six-month expo before staging the closing ceremony.

Striking images, films and dazzling lights will be beamed on to the translucent dome via more than 200 projectors that have been fitted within it.

It will be the world’s largest projection surface when it comes to life in seven months, promising immersive experiences.

The images that will be beamed on the intricate trellis will be visible both inside and outside the structure.

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Al Wasl Plaza’s trellis design was inspired by an ancient golden ring found in the Saruq Al Hadid site by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai. It also reflects the intertwined logo of the Expo 2020.

The moulded steel dome is 130-metre wide, 67-metre tall and weighs more than 500 tonnes.

It required expert engineers with precision heavy lifting equipment to raise it and fit it perfectly into place last year.

Taller than the leaning tower of Pisa and one of the largest single structures on the site, Al Wasl will be a permanent installation that will remain after the world fair ends in April 2021.

The plaza was officially inaugurated on Wednesday by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.

The dome’s unique structure was designed by US firm Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill Architecture.

Its location, at the heart of the 4.38 sq km site, will make for dramatic photographs for the millions of visitors from across the world.

Fountains, parks and restaurants have also been planned across the plaza area.

Al Wasl Plaza, an open space at the center of Expo 2020 Dubai, combines breathtaking design, innovative technology, and an intricate domed trellis incorporating a huge immersive projection experience. The plaza at the center of the 4.38-square kilometer site will make a dramatic impression on the millions of people visiting Expo 2020 Dubai from around the world.

The 150 meter diameter Al Wasl Plaza is being designed as a central hub for the exposition. The space will bring people of all backgrounds together to “Connect Minds,” a key ambition of the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia (MEASA) region. Al Wasl is the historical name for Dubai but also means “connection” in Arabic, reflecting both Dubai’s goal of bringing people together at the Expo and the plaza’s physical location at the heart of the site.

The plaza will connect the three thematic districts – Opportunity, Sustainability and Mobility – as well as the other main concourses, including the Dubai Metro link and the UAE Pavilion, through its seven entrances and exits.

The plaza will be topped by a 65-meter-high domed trellis that was inspired by the shape of the Expo 2020 Dubai logo and will act as an immersive 360-degree projection surface. As the dome is translucent, the projection will be visible to both those inside and out of the covered plaza. Numerous other features in the plaza include restaurants, fountains, and parks.

The comfort of visitors to Expo 2020 Dubai has been factored into the design of the plaza. The design uses techniques to calibrate the temperature under the trellis with that outside, ensuring a comfortable environment.

After the Expo completes in 2021, the plaza will continue to play a central role – literally and metaphorically – in its legacy. There are plans to convert the surrounding 10-13 story buildings into hotels and other commercial uses, complementing the entire mixed-use legacy of the Expo site.

The location will also further strengthen Dubai’s thriving events scene, having been designed to be adapted to host experiences of all sizes and purposes, whether it be a small, intimate event or a large gathering of up to 10,000 people, such as National Day celebrations.

Expo 2020 Dubai will open its doors on 20 October, 2020 and will end on 10 April, 2021. Work is due to start on Al Wasl Plaza in the coming months and is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.

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