Dubai Expo 2020

The first major World Expo since Milan Expo 2015, Expo 2020 Dubai is the first World Expo hosted in the Middle East region, hosts 192 countries, is expecting to receive 25 million visitors, and incorporates the work of architects and designers from around the world. The aim of Expo 2020 is to celebrate culture, collaboration and innovation.

Agency

Spaceagency Design

Practice Area

Client

Buro Expo 2020

Industry

The Challenge

The evolution of the master plan of the Expo was a journey in itself. The masterplan project underwent 2 complete redesigns in 2015 and 2018, requiring new wayfinding and signage concepts to align to new public realm designs. The Expo was additionally delayed for a year due to Covid-19, and had to surmount the challenges of manufacturing and shipping during a global pandemic.

Project Vision

As the first World Expo hosted in the Middle East, it was paramount to the organizers that designs showcase Emirati heritage and culture. Taking a deep dive into cultural traditions and artisanal crafts, the signage design concept was inspired by the UNESCO-protected Emirati craft of Al Sadu weaving.

This international / local collaboration was an ideal opportunity to showcase Emirati traditions on the world stage to an international visitor base. The collaboration with the charitable foundation supported the weaver’s livelihood and promotes the continuation of this strand of Emirati heritage.

On-site installation of handcrafted Emirati Al Sadu through the Loom.

Sarah Manning, 2021

Line-up of signage prototypes. Lighting tests in the evening at signage fabricator’s facilities.

Peter Feldmann, 2019

Detail of Al Sadu Weaving and District ID

Jason O’Rear, 2021

Detail of Al Sadu Weaving and directional wayfinding content.

Jason O’Rear, 2021

Design + Execution

The fabrication of upwards of 3,500 signage elements took place over 20 months, involving 6 fabricators from Dubai to China. Collaborators ranged from local weavers associated with a charitable foundation in the United Arab Emirates who produced 7 distinct Al Sadu woven textile patterns and colorways to identify different districts of the Expo, to large manufacturers in China who fabricated 12-meter-tall steel frames and shipped these to the Dubai Expo during the Covid pandemic.

Custom designed icons for male and female restrooms.

Aidan Brown, 2022

Evening view of Identity signage at the Sustainability pavilion.

Jason O’Rear, 2021

Day view of Identity signage at the Oasis park.

Jason O’Rear, 2021

Ewel Coralic
Project Details
We loved the application of the traditional weaving techniques to this signage system, a brave move by the commissioner and a clever idea well realized. Equally stunning at day or night in a harsh environment. An example of a great collaboration between an international wayfinding practice and a local Dubai-based design studio.
Juror 1
This signage design concept beautifully integrates local textile craftsmanship with a modern design, creating a unique and subtle system that works both at day and night.
Juror 2
Design Team

Sarah Manning
Peter Feldmann
Nicola Lorusso
Magda Zdrojewski
Carlos Martin
Aidan Brown
Yasmina Yehia
Andy Pham
Becky Kirk

Collaborators

Asif Khan Studio (architecture)
Aecom (urban planning, landscape architecture)
Pico, World Image Ltd., LP Flex, Signworks (physical fabrication)
Pro Lab Digital (digital fabrication)
Unigraf Al Ghadeer Foundation UAE Crafts

Photo Credits

Jason O’Rear
Aidan Brown
Peter Feldmann
Evvel Coralic (videographer)

Open Date

October 2021