Everything you need to know about Expo 2020 Dubai’s District 2020

District 2020 represents a key component of Expo 2020 Dubai’s strategy to reuse 80% of its   site infrastructure. James Morgan looks into how the megaproject will serve future generations

Rapid transition: With transformation works due to begin in April 2021, District 2020 is expected to take six to nine months to deliver.
Rapid transition: With transformation works due to begin in April 2021, District 2020 is expected to take six to nine months to deliver.

Earlier this week, officials revealed how Expo 2020 Dubai’s site would be repurposed following the conclusion of the world’s fair in 2021.

Located in the heart of Dubai South, the 2km2 District 2020 legacy megaproject represents a key component of the emirate’s strategy to reuse 80% of Expo 2020’s site infrastructure once the event has ended.

From Q4 2021, District 2020 will become the post-exhibition home of many of Expo 2020’s main structures and spaces. Elements that will be repurposed include the UAE Pavilion; Al Wasl Plaza, which will continue to be used as a venue for performances and events; the Sustainability Pavilion, which will be transformed into a Children and Science Centre; and the Mobility Pavilion, which will become a commercial office space, and could include a ‘small institution’.

District 2020 will also retain Expo 2020’s conference and exhibition centre, which is being developed by Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC). This facility will be expanded following the exposition, and is expected to play a role in attracting future visitors.

Additional underground parking will be constructed to meet the long-term needs of the development’s permanent community.

Once the site’s ambitious metamorphosis is complete, District 2020 will feature 135,000m2 of commercial space, 65,000m2 of residential space, 45,900m2 of parkland, and 10km of cycling tracks. All of its buildings will meet or exceed LEED Gold standards.

News of District 2020, which received its official launch at Cityscape Global 2017, was not entirely unexpected. The concept of ‘legacy’ has been a cornerstone of Expo 2020 since Dubai was awarded the event in November 2013.

In addition to its primary focus of legacy, District 2020 will continue to build on Expo 2020’s theme, ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’. Indeed, the community is shot through with facets of connectivity. Adjacent to Al Maktoum International Airport, it is situated at the junction of four major highways. It will also feature a dedicated metro station, which will form part of Dubai Metro’s Route 2020.

Commenting District 2020’s background, Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation, and director-general of Dubai Expo 2020 Bureau, explained: “Back in 2013, when we won the bid to host this great event, we set ourselves two clear objectives in line with our leader’s vision: to stage a World Expo that would amaze the world, and build a lasting legacy with a global destination that offers a new alternative for urban living.

“His Highness Sheikh Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, [Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai,] instructed us to build a site for a permanent legacy and, therefore, we had to think of ways to capitalise on what was being built for Expo, as well as for post-Expo,” she continued. “We have created District 2020 to achieve that goal. It has been a key part of our planning from the very start, not just for our legacy team, but the entire Expo organisation.”

HE Al Hashimy was not speaking hyperbolically. On the contrary, the philosophy of legacy has pervaded every facet of Expo 2020’s planning and delivery. The exhibition’s comprehensive legacy-planning framework – which incorporates economic, physical, social, and reputational legacy – has been designed to ensure that District 2020 achieves the maximum impact for the UAE, participants, visitors, and the wider community.

Speaking to Construction Week on the sidelines of Cityscape, Marjan Faraidooni, senior vice president of legacy impact and development at Expo 2020 Dubai, elaborated: “Everything that we are looking to [build,] we’ve always looked at it from two dimensions. How is that space accommodating the visitors who are coming through, and what will it be used for after the Expo? It’s been a great challenge [...] but, fortunately, we’ve been working very well with our real estate team, and with our designers and architects, to ensure the flexibility of these structures.

“For example, the thematic petals [are] designed to accommodate residential space in addition to commercial space. And what’s unique about [the petals] is that they’re designed for flexibility. That really works towards what our strategy is: to attract all sizes of companies – the small ones and the big ones. [It means we can] accommodate a 14m2 one-man or -woman show, but it can also be up to 5,000m2.”

What’s more, District 2020 could be delivered much sooner than many would have expected. Faraidooni said that the majority of works conducted during the transitional period will involve the repurposing of existing structures and the dismantling of those not intended for long-term use. It will also involve the disassembly of several temporary structures, including the Opportunity Pavilion and the pavilions of participating countries.

“It’s mostly a transition period of repurposing: to remove and dismantle whatever exhibitors were there, and to allow for the future tenants to come in and fit-out the core-and-shell space,” Faraidooni explained. “We’re looking for a period of between six [and] nine months to do that transitioning.”

The Dubai South site’s physical transition from Expo 2020 to District 2020 will begin as soon as the exhibition concludes, with work scheduled to commence on 11 April, 2021. If those behind the megaproject succeed in achieving their goals, District 2020 will become a development moulded in the very image of Expo 2020: a community of connected minds created for future generations.

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