Dubai builts the city of the future: District 2020

Dubai builts the city of the future: District 2020

Posted on 25 January 2021

Almost 80 percent of Expo’s built environment will be retained for District 2020

For six months from October, the Expo 2020 Dubai site will be one of the most connected places in the world. But what happens after that? What happens to the Expo assets, to the art, architecture, pavilions and innovative designs on display?

The legacy of Expo 2020 will remain as District 2020, an integrated community that will connect people long into the future. District 2020 will continue to support the acceleration of Dubai’s development and will be a home for innovators, families, artists and pioneers.

Property Weekly met Marjan Faraidooni, Chief Pavilions and Exhibitions Officer of Expo 2020 Dubai, to understand the concept of legacy and how it translates into this “city within the city”.

 “It’s a huge responsibility,” she admits. “The Expo 2020 Dubai site spans almost three million square metres. Over 80 per cent of its built environment will be retained for District 2020,” says Faraidooni.

District 2020, she explains, has been carefully planned to support the UAE’s future vision by enabling sustainable economic development, moving towards an innovation-driven economy and creating a business environment that directly encourages progress within key growth industries.

How important has the question of legacy been as part of planning for Expo 2020 Dubai?

Ever since we started, the legacy question has been the cornerstone for planning for Expo 2020 Dubai. This follows the direction we received from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. He told us that any investment that we make towards the Expo, we have to think very carefully about how we maximize its use in the future. Therefore, it was very clear from the beginning that while we have a city that’s hosting a world expo for six months with a lot of planning going on for the buildings as well as infrastructure, it was equally important to think of this place as a “city of the future” that would continue to host visitors, businesses and people from across the globe to live, work, play and set up businesses here.

How do you imagine District 2020 to be?

We imagine this to be an integrated community that will welcome visitors and businesses and people of different backgrounds to come and live here. We are inheriting wonderful cultural assets from the Expo 2020 Dubai period and we would like to hold on to them for our future generations. These assets would be part of District 2020. For example, one of the major pavilions of Expo 2020 Dubai focuses on sustainability. The Sustainability Pavilion will remain as a Children and Science Centre after the Expo, inspiring children about sustainability. Also, the Dubai Exhibition Centre that is being built here as an extension of the exhibition centre near downtown will continue to be built even after the Expo and will provide an overall space of 180,000 sqm to host events and exhibitions even after the Expo is over.

District 2020 will also provide great infrastructure for businesses to flourish. Our vision is to curate an innovation district that brings in multiple players.

We want the big corporates to be here together with the smaller businesses and start-up communities. Both these players should value each other. We imagine that as an integrated community, District 2020 will welcome people to live in the residential units that will be built here. So yes, at the heart of District 2020 there will be neighborhoods that will be home to offices, collaborative workspaces, residential communities, social and cultural attractions, parks, cycling and running tracks and a host of business and leisure amenities.

The city has been designed to maximize flexibility and connectivity, and is built to some of the most progressive sustainability standards. We are looking at the comfort of the visitors and residents and the organizations that come here.

How much of what we see at Expo 2020 Dubai will go into District 2020?

Almost 80 per cent of what you will see at Expo 2020 Dubai will be repurposed to go into District 2020. The Expo master plan has three petal-like structures. These petals are the main assets of Expo 2020 and cover almost 209,072 sq m of built-up area. We have buildings within the petals, as well as around them.

During the Expo, these buildings will be used by the countries exhibiting and also by food and beverage outlets. After the Expo, all these 86 buildings will be repurposed as offices and residences. While the ones within the petals will be made fit-out ready for commercial entities, we have zoned out the residential buildings closer to the petals. These will be designed keeping in mind the average age of people living here. We want to offer different styles, such as loft living, to cater to a younger generation.

After Expo 2020 Dubai, the Al Wasl Plaza will remain. The dome and the garden in the middle of it will host events for residents and visitors post Expo. We are also building other cultural elements during Expo that will be a part of the legacy. In the next couple of months, we will let you know more about the artists whose work will be the main features around the site.

The Sustainability Pavilion will become Terra — the Children and Science Centre, the Mobility pavilion is ear-marked to become a commercial building and the UAE Pavilion will be managed by the UAE government. There will also be the two hotels with 650 keys that will remain and the two parks with cycling tracks and water features.

District 2020: a mixed-use global innovation hub

The vision of District 2020 reflects the World Expo themes  of mobilitysustainability and opportunity.  

Designed for a community of 90,000 people, the district will have easy access by road and public transport; legacy buildings from Expo that meet or exceed the LEED Gold certification; and a mix of spaces to provide opportunities for living, working and for leisure.

As a business location, District 2020 will focus on the ambitions mapped out in the Dubai Silk Road Strategy, designed to consolidate Dubai’s status as a strategic link in global trade. 

Nadimeh Mehra, Vice President, Legacy Development & Impact, Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “We are constantly striving to make Dubai a better place to live, work and explore. We are a young country, and we have a lot more to do and a lot more to contribute to the world.”


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