Thematic Districts, Expo 2020 Dubai,

We created the lighting design for the 'Thematic Districts" of Expo 2020, Dubai as part of a competition-winning team led by Hopkins Architects.
Expo 2020 Dubai
Hopkins Architects
Hopkins Architects

Acting as a backdrop to various Expo exhibits, and with a planned legacy use as future workspace and retail, this series of exciting public spaces, pavilions, and shading structures combined traditional motifs and landscaping, having been conceived as an 'oasis in the desert'.

The atmosphere for each of the three main zones was shaped in response to a specific theme. All areas featured several layers of lighting: amenity, integrated light to landscape elements and shading structures, selected facades and media screens, and an event lighting overlay. Combinations of these layers allowed for different uses and occasions both during Expo and looking forward to legacy.

The 'Mobility' zone focused on movement, connection, and progress. We chose a colour palette of fresh shades of blue and cool white light for this theme, introducing a lively animated character. Festoon lighting sparkled in the trees, and carefully positioned media screens and façade lighting interventions showcased latest technologies. The palm-like shape of the shading structures was revealed through an array of LED pixels, offering the possibility of dynamic effects in response to the movement of people.

The 'Opportunity' zone celebrated culture, art, identity, and imagination. It featured warmer light, with white and amber tones highlighting innovative facade systems, soft uplighting to trees and light points within the shade structure. In this zone, slower animations created a magical dream-like quality.

The "Sustainability' zone explored themes of ecology, economy, resources, and nature. This zone featured a subtle character, using light and darkness to shape a sustainable response. We included no direct façade lighting or media screens; instead, the internal glow from the buildings created a lantern effect. Light directed through the foliage of the trees evoked the sense of moonlight casting a textured pattern on the ground, and the shading structures were also revealed by light from within.

Responding to climate and context, this project achieved significant sustainability objectives and was awarded LEED Gold. The design accommodated the intense, temporary, and highly functional needs of the Expo Exhibition itself, with built-in flexibility to adapt to future uses. To help facilitate this, we devised a restricted palette of good quality lighting equipment that, together with a range of accessories, enabled a wide range of effects.