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Asif Khan completes giant gateways for Dubai 2020 Expo

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Asif Khan has completed a trio of seven-storey gateways for the Expo 2020 Dubai ahead of its opening later this year 

As well as the entry portals, the studio has also designed more than 6km of public realm for the massive world fair in the Arab Emirate, which opens on 20 October.

The portals are based on an exploration of the traditional ‘mashrabiya’ – an architectural element characteristic of Arabic residences, used to control light and airflow. Each one is formed from woven strands of ultra-lightweight carbon fibre composite.

The material’s structural strength allows the portal structures to stand 21m tall and 30m long without any additional support. From afar, this effect gives the illusion the gateways are ’composed of translucent planes’.

The expo 2020 dubai entry portals designed by asif khan photography by helene binet (7)

Each portal also features two vast doors, which are 21m by 10.5m and will be opened every morning of the 173-day-long Expo. These will lead visitors to tree-filled courtyards, also designed by Khan, in each of the three Expo districts, which are based on the topics of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability.

The portals were designed in collaboration with Ha-Co Carbon, a German manufacturer specialising in large format carbon composite components, and aircraft engineer Calin Gologan. According to the design team, it took three years to come up with the ‘final geometric pattern’, which combines ‘the requirements of structural strength against material efficiency, wind permeability, shading quantity and manufacturing time’.

Asif Khan’s public realm design also interweaves a 6km linear park running the length of the concourse, alongside a running track, paths of soft and hard landscaping interspersed with places to rest, including a seating project designed in collaboration with Lebanese typographer Lara Captan.

After the expo finishes, it is hoped the public realm will become a permanent streetscape for a new district.

The entry portals will be the first experience of the expo – the largest event to be ever held in the Arab world – for millions of visitors. Expo 2020 Dubai will be open from 20 October until 10 April 2021.

You can see the rest of the Dubai 2020 Expo pavilion designs here

The expo 2020 dubai entry portals designed by asif khan photography by helene binet (6)

Architect’s view

The portals will be the first and last encountering moment for all who make the journey to Expo 2020 Dubai, and these capture the very transcendental moment the region is experiencing as it hosts its first World Expo – the celebration not only of UAE’s heritage but also the future. 

Designing the public realm for Expo 2020 Dubai is a seminal moment for my practice; each aspect of the design invites visitors to immerse themselves in shared Islamic culture, art and language in dialogue with the future spirit of Expo. As visitors explore the many facets of the public realm designs, from the Expo Entry Portals to the seating I made with Lara Captan, I hope it leaves them with an unforgettable sense and experience of place.

The experience for visitors begins to unfold at the Expo Entry Portals. They stand at 21m tall, but are incredibly light and airy due to the fact that they are made from carbon fibre, an ultra-lightweight material more commonly associated with Formula One and aircraft engineering than architecture. They draw inspiration from the traditional mashrabiya structures that are common across the region. Every morning as Expo opens, the great doors of the portal will open and people experience crossing a futuristic threshold into a new world. The idea is for them to be inspired at that moment.

Asif Khan, founder, Asif Khan Studio

The expo 2020 dubai entry portals designed by asif khan photography by helene binet (10)

Client’s view

We cannot wait to open our doors to the world on 20 October 2020, and the Expo Entry Portals will provide a wonderful way to welcome millions of people from across the globe, giving a taste of the amazing architecture and groundbreaking innovation they will experience all around the site. 

Ahmed Al Khatib, chief development and delivery officer, Expo 2020 Dubai

Project data

Start on site 2019
Completion date February 2020
Gross floor area 6km
Construction cost Undisclosed
Architect Asif Khan
Client Expo 2020 Dubai
Structural engineer Calin Gologan
Manufacturer Ha-Co Carbon GmbH

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