Asif Khan, the British architectural mastermind behind Expo 2020’s Public Realm – has conceptualised and created what will be the first sight to greet millions of visitors from around the world.
In the hands of architect Asif Khan, the entry portals of the Dubai Expo 2020 become metaphors, gateways and transitional points that are equal parts design genius and a philosophical back story.
Asif Khan presents three stark, stunning, perception-shifting entryways to the expansive event site that will create different experiences depending on the time of day, inventively playing with light and myriad shadows. Each of these are entry portals – one positioned at the entrance to each of the three Thematic Districts of Expo 2020 Dubai (Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability).
Drawing inspiration from the latticework present in the traditional “mashrabiya” among Arabic dwellings, the three portals are crafted entirely from intertwined lightweight carbon fiber composite and sit defiantly upon the open landscape. Measuring 21 meters high by 30 meters long, the portals were developed over the course of a three-year iterative design process. The portals are as remarkable from an engineering standpoint as they are visually. Using a unique process, high-grade carbon fibre and resin was spun into strands so fine they could circumnavigate the world 5,000 times over if laid end to end. Yet those strands retain the structural strength to support a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Each portal has a set of two 21-metre-tall doors – and when opened each morning, they will represent a symbolic act of Expo 2020’s doors being literally thrown open to the world. When visitors leave, those same doors will lead back to the ‘regular’ world, enticing visitors to return to Expo 2020 another day.
These portals are a fitting point of first contact for visitors to Expo 2020 – a unique celebration of art, culture, music, architecture, technology and a once-in-a-lifetime showcase of human brilliance and achievement.
Khan was previously known for works that include the darkest building in the world, and MegaFaces, a pavilion with a kinetic façade at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics that used 11,000 full colour LEDs to recreate the faces of visitors to the building.
The three portals – whose installation was completed in December 2019 – will be complemented by a different entry plaza with themed flora and features to further welcome visitors.