Asif Khan-designed Entry Portals for EXPO 2020 draw inspiration from Arabic patterns

The three gateways to Expo 2020 Dubai by British architect Asif Khan, woven from carbon fibre, are an artistic installation and a modern adaptation of traditional mashrabiya.

by Meghna Mehta Published on : Feb 21, 2020

British architect and designer Asif Khan recently revealed the photographs for the three Entry Portals designed by his studio for Expo 2020 Dubai. The grand event - the first Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia - will take place in Dubai from October 20, 2020 to April 10, 2021. It intends to bring together millions of people celebrating human brilliance and achievement under the theme 'Connecting Minds, Creating the Future'. With an expected count of 25 million visitors, and 70 per cent from outside the UAE, the Expo aims to entertain guests with 60 daily events across 173 days.

The design of the three gateways is a modern adaptation of the traditional mashrabiya, an intricate lattice like pattern used across the region to aid light penetration and easy wind circulation.

  • The Entry Portals have been created out of strands of ultra-lightweight carbon fibre | Entry Portals | Expo 2020 Dubai | Asif Khan | STIRworld
    The Entry Portals have been created out of strands of ultra-lightweight carbon fibre Image Credit: Hélène Binet, Courtesy of Expo 2020 Dubai
  • The portal has 10.5-metre wide door openings | Entry Portals | Expo 2020 Dubai | Asif Khan | STIRworld
    The portal has 10.5-metre wide door openings Image Credit: Hélène Binet, Courtesy of Expo 2020 Dubai

Khan, the architect of Expo 2020 Dubai’s Public Realm – more than six kms of walkable areas across the site - described the Expo Entry Portals as his best work yet. The portals are the first thing you see as you approach the site, so they are a landmark at the beginning and end of your journey at Expo 2020. I would like visitors to Expo, especially children, to be inspired by architecture they have never seen before, and to be excited that it is part of the heritage of the region. Passing through the doors represents a physical and symbolic act of moving from the past into the future,” he said.

Asif Khan’s eponymous research and development-led architecture studio is based in London, and designs buildings, landscapes, exhibitions and installations, among other things. Khan has previously designed the ‘MegaFaces’ pavilion at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics that won the Cannes Lion Grand Prix for Innovation, the Coca-Cola Beatbox at London 2012 Olympics and a Summer pavilion for the Serpentine Gallery in Summer 2016. Recently, he also created the award-winning UK Pavilion at Astana Expo 2017 and the Hyundai Pavilion at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics.

  • The design for the doors derive inspiration from traditional mashrabiya – design patterns seen in Arab countries | Entry Portals | Expo 2020 Dubai| Asif Khan | STIRworld
    The design for the doors derive inspiration from traditional mashrabiya – design patterns seen in Arab countries Image Credit: Hélène Binet, Courtesy of Expo 2020 Dubai
  • The portal symbolises moving away from the past into the future | Entry Portals | Expo 2020 Dubai| Asif Khan | STIRworld
    The portal symbolises moving away from the past into the future Image Credit: Hélène Binet, Courtesy of Expo 2020 Dubai

The portals have been designed using strands of ultra-lightweight carbon-fibre composite that contrary to their appearance, give the entire system incredible structural strength. The strands enable the ethereal structures to stand 21 metres high (taller than a six-storey building) and 30 metres in length without any additional support.

Each portal features two vast doors with a height of 21 metres and 10.5 metre width; they will open every morning for the 173 days of Expo 2020 as a symbolic act of welcoming the world. The portals further lead the way towards arrival courtyards, also designed in collaboration with Khan – one in each of the three Expo 2020 districts: Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability.

01 min watch The video shows the Entry Portals and what is being anticipated at the World Expo 2020 Dubai | Entry Portals | Expo 2020 Dubai| Asif Khan | STIRworld
The video shows the Entry Portals and what is being anticipated at the World Expo 2020 Dubai Video Credit: Courtesy of Expo 2020 Dubai

With reference to the impactful and innovative structures that have been presented at the past World Expos, these Entry Portals are a future form of architecture inspired by the aesthetics of the region. It took Khan three years to develop the intricate structures as part of his other designs for Expo 2020.

The Entry Portals are part of the Public Realm of the Expo 2020 | Entry Portals | Expo 2020 Dubai| Asif Khan | STIRworld
The Entry Portals are part of the Public Realm of the Expo 2020 Image Credit: Hélène Binet, Courtesy of Expo 2020 Dubai

Ahmed Al Khatib, Chief Development and Delivery Officer, Expo 2020 Dubai, said, “We cannot wait to open our doors to the world on 20 October 2020, and the Expo Entry Portals will provide a wonderful way to welcome millions of people from across the globe to The World’s Greatest Show, giving a first taste of the amazing architecture and ground-breaking innovation they will experience all around the site.”

The portals are six-storey tall and 30 meters in length | Entry Portals | Expo 2020 Dubai | Asif Khan | STIRworld
The portals are six-storey tall and 30 meters in length Image Credit: Hélène Binet, Courtesy of Expo 2020 Dubai

These portals become representative metaphor for the Expo 2020 where one leaves Dubai and enter a different world. They are not only the first impression upon arrival for millions of the visitors but also a modern, artistic, non-rigid and fluid impression of the transition between the outside and the inside.

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About Author

Meghna Mehta

Meghna Mehta

An architect by education and a journalist by passion, Mehta pursued a crossroad between her two interests. Having completed an M.Arch from CEPT University in Ahmedabad, she has worked in the field of architectural journalism for over 5 years. Besides content generation for STIR, she continues to teach in architectural schools in Mumbai.

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