Architecture & Design

Designed to impress

A drone image showing the Garden in the Sky and the Water Feature.

Visitors making their way to feast their eyes on the architectural, cultural and innovative marvels at Expo 2020 Dubai will not fail to be impressed by the three massive entry portals to the site.

Most of them will also be keen to take a trip up the observation tower that soars 55 m above the ground.

These two distinctive features of the site have been designed by the London-based research and development led architecture studio Asif Khan, which also holds credit for the design of the Expo 2020’s public realm.

The 21-m-high and 30-m-long Entry Portals.

The 21-m-high and 30-m-long Entry Portals.

The observation tower, which is also a ‘flying park’, offers 360-degree views of the wonder-filled 4.38-sq-km Expo 2020 Dubai site. Known as Garden in the Sky, it is located in Jubilee Park.  The tower’s upper floor is planted with 10 Peltophorum Inerme trees and is linked by stairs to the air-conditioned lower floor. Also known as yellow flame trees, Peltophorum Inerme are well adapted to the UAE’s hot and arid climate and form an integral part of Dubai’s parks and streetscapes.

Visitors to this iconic attraction, the only one of its kind in the world, will enter the lower cabin in the basement and the upper cabin on the ground floor. The interlinked cabins rotate as they ascend and descend.

In addition to Garden in the Sky, Jubilee Park is home to dozens of food outlets, large-scale art installations, the Jubilee Stage, the 15-m-high, 360-degree-round Expo 2020 water feature, the World Souq and Rashid’s Playground – an ocean-themed adventure inspired by the imagination and underwater exploits of Expo 2020 mascot Rashid.

Jubilee Park’s design is based on the wadi, a type of seasonal river that springs to life in the desert after heavy rains, painting the arid landscape green.

Expo 2020 Water Feature ... giant sheets of water tumble down 13-m-high vertical walls.

Expo 2020 Water Feature ... giant sheets of water tumble down 13-m-high vertical walls.

Expo’s three Entry Portals, conceived by Expo 2020 in collaboration with Asif Khan and his studio, are a futuristic adaptation of the traditional mashrabiya, an intricate design used across the region to regulate light and airflow. The 21-m-high and 30-m-long portals, which were installed in February last year, are woven entirely from strands of ultra-lightweight carbon-fibre composite that lend incredible structural strength. Each portal features two vast doors that will be opened every morning of the 173 days of Expo 2020 in a symbolic act of welcoming the world.

Asif Khan works across the fields of architecture, industrial and furniture design, and is dedicated to pushing these disciplines in new and unexpected directions.

Jubilee Park’s another key highlight is the water feature which combines water, earth and fire to make it one of Expo 2020’s must-see attractions.  Here, giant sheets of water tumble down 13-m-high vertical walls that by day cascade into a mysterious, multi-hued circle of fire, and by night defy gravity by flowing upwards – accompanied by an orchestral score from the award-winning composer of the Game of Thrones theme music.

The water feature was created by California-based WET Design, which uses supercomputers and other cutting-edge technology to build some of the world’s most iconic fountains and water features, including the famous dancing fountain at Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.

Garden in the Sky ... a 55-m observation tower

Garden in the Sky ... a 55-m observation tower

WET’s choreographers and Ramin Djawadi, an award-winning German score composer, worked together to marry music with the visual experience of the water feature. The surrounding landscaping and architectural features were designed by SWA Group.

Situated between Al Wasl Plaza and Jubilee Park, the Expo 2020 Water Feature combines the elements of water, earth and fire in a way that will both surprise and delight the senses, according to a spokesperson for Expo 2020.

Visitors coming from Al Wasl Plaza enter a verdant 40-m-wide garden of towering palms and fragrant plants rising above a series of curving paths that encircle the central water feature like ripples in a pond. Large planted walls rise up around the feature, with three openings to a central area that takes visitors below ground level.

“The 153 individual waves range from glistening sheets to bursts of water that literally leap from the walls as they make their dramatic descent to the plaza below. People are invited to walk to the base of the falls to see how the water disappears through the stone. At night, the waves reverse themselves – producing a gravity-defying spectacle as they flow up the walls,” says the spokesman.

Garden in the Sky ... a 55-m observation tower that offers 360-degree views of the 4.38-sq-km Expo 2020 Dubai site

Garden in the Sky ... a 55-m observation tower that offers 360-degree views of the 4.38-sq-km Expo 2020 Dubai site

At the feature’s centre is a mysterious circle of fire that produces enormous bursts of flames in spectral hues of red, green and yellow. In keeping with Expo 2020’s theme of sustainability, these huge flames are of pure hydrogen and therefore produce no carbon, he adds.

“Each surge of water is released on a musical cue, creating an orchestral masterpiece performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. The original score was written by Ramin Djawadi, whose work includes the theme music for the HBO series Game of Thrones, which earned him Grammy Award nominations in 2009, 2018 and 2020,” the spokesman says.

The Expo 2020 Water Feature and its surrounding landscaping and architectural elements are arranged in a way that connects people through dynamic movement inside the park, while also allowing interaction between adjacent spaces.