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Dubai Expo 2020 Speaks Futuristic: Light, Yet Monumental Portals by Asif Khan

  • Dubai Expo 2020 revealed the first images of its site portals. Designed by the British architecture studio Asif Khan; the three ultra-light, yet monumental site gates are ready to welcome almost 25 million visitors to the World Expo that will be held in Dubai starting from October 2020 to April 2021. The studio designed the three portals to be a landmark at the beginning and the end of the visitors’ journey in the 4.38 public realm; designed by HOK architects.

Asif Khan follows the theme of Dubai Expo 2020: “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”, to design high-tech perfectly functioning gates that express a sense of place. The designers borrowed the concept of the famous Islamic architectural element: Mashrabiya -carved wooden panels that were used to enclose windows and balconies to control shadow and airflow- and modified it in their futuristic technology; by folding, scaling, and choosing the right material.

Photography by Helene Binet

“When you are given this opportunity to combine innovation and a sense of place you can suggest some kind of new regional aesthetic, which I see the portals as a means of exploring.” Said Khan. He spent three years on the design; trying to translate the experience of the transition from the past to the future; both physically and in a symbolic way. And to do this very lightly; carbon-fiber was the best material choice. It is both extremely light and very stiff, which helped the gigantic portals stand in stillness with no supporting structure.

Photography by Helene Binet

With the help of specialists in this technology; the UK based studio created its own technique to form the material. The carbon-fiber ribbons were woven into a 3D form, to function well in terms of shading and airflow. This futuristic approach to represent the futuristic theme of the Dubai Expo 2020 created a pattern projecting on both the earth and the sky. Khan explained: “But when you approach them, the unexpected thinness of structure and airy-ness gives the structure a magical, gravity-defying quality.”

Such innovative work is expected from Khan. He always seeks an integrated design, where nature, matter, technology, and social activities are in harmony. It is also not his first participation in an international Expo, as Khan designed the UK Pavilion for the Astana Expo 2017, and was shortlisted to design the UK pavilion for the Milan Expo 2015 and The Mobility Pavilion for the upcoming Dubai Expo.

The site of the Dubai Expo 2020 features three sub-themes; Opportunity, Mobility, and Sustainability; designed by BIG, Foster, and Grimshaw Architects. Each of the three portals leads towards one of the districts through tree-filled courtyards, also designed by Asif Khan. Each Portal features a door 21-meters high and 10.5-meters wide; generously providing different perspectives and a shifting geometry as you get closer to them.

The Dubai Expo 2020 is the first World Expo to take place in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (MEASA). It is almost ready to celebrate all kinds of human achievements and inspire the next generation to achieve more. This mega-event will last 173 days; introducing brand new experiences each day – have you ever read a poem in 3D?

Project Info: Architect: Asif Khan Location: Dubai, UAE Photographer: Helene Binet Project Name: Dubai Expo 2020 Portals


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