Envisioned as a human-centric city of the future, Expo City Dubai (ECD) has transformed from a concept to a fully realised, functioning archetype. Despite the attention and fanfare surrounding Expo 2020, the broader vision and legacy masterplan to repurpose the expo site along with its innovative and sustainable infrastructure often go unnoticed.
Hosting COP28, the event naturally provides an ideal platform for ECD to showcase its sustainable elements both in the built environment and across all its operational layers. While many proof points are accessible to visitors, they are not always apparent or consolidated for everyone, especially for prospective investors and residents. Although the permanent ECD sales center captures some of these proof points, much of it remains inaccessible or lacks presentation as tangible benefits for diverse visitor types.
Our COP28 pavilion design serves multiple objectives by educating and entertaining whilst telling the sustainability story that underpins the entire district.
Visitors are first welcomed by an immersive analog installation featuring a symbolic ‘Ghaf’ tree, representing a city that connects and elevates its people. Thousands of hanging Ghaf leaves create an ethereal atmosphere as visitors traverse through dappled projections and a soundscape, immersing them in the experience.
Once visitors grasp the bigger picture and find their sense of place, they are guided into a field of discovery. This field, crafted from recycled papers and timber, features three digital interactives housed in ‘Shigeru Ban’-inspired totems. These interactives help visitors imagine their world in Expo City Dubai.
Guided by ‘Noor,’ Expo’s virtual assistant designed for this pavilion, the interactive uses animated illustrations to bring over 200 proof points to life as tangible benefits for different personas.The fields also include discovery plinths showcasing various ways ECD has enhanced sustainability in its operational layers and built environment. Visitors also have the opportunity to make a pledge and physically plant it in the field, with each pledge leading to a tree being planted in their name at Expo City Dubai.
An immersive enclave (inspired by the Surreal Waterfall feature at Expo) built from two curved LED walls forms the centrepiece for the next zone, showcasing the key themes of ‘Live, Work, and Play’ within the district. The enclave also hosts a VR experience, allowing visitors to explore 360-degree flythroughs of the district.
An installation metaphoric of change and transformation, inspired by ECD boulevard shading motifs, serves as an iconic Instagram moment for pledge-takers. This installation is crafted from hundreds of recycled timber birds taking flight, symbolising hope for a better future.
Beyond showcasing Expo City Dubai comprehensively, we aimed to create a Place of Action—a collaborative space where visitors witness the innovation ecosystem in action. Here, partners collaborate to address pressing sustainability and climate change challenges, enabling visitors to observe and participate in sessions.
Through numerous activations and interactives designed to collect data, we gathered a range of opinions and ambitions for the future. Pledges varied from simple, everyday changes to grander visions of the future. Popular areas of interest, as captured by the persona-based interactives, included innovation in sustainability, inclusive living, and access to state-of-the-art infrastructure. Digital surveys taken towards the end indicated strong interest from international businesses considering ECD as their regional base.