From dream to dazzling dome

A cultural landmark and connector for today leaves a legacy for tomorrow



Rising like a dream in the desert, AL Wasl Plaza’s dome is the largest of its kind in the world. The spectacular centrepiece of Expo 2020 Dubai, the dome spans 130 metres and stands more than 67 metres tall. The striking dome, which doubles as a 360-degree laser projection surface, offers an immersive light and sound experience on a scale previously unimagined.

An embodiment of Expo 2020 Dubai’s theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”, Al Wasl Plaza is the heart and soul of the site. Featuring a tranquil garden, three office buildings and two hotels, as well as the show-stealing dome, Al Wasl Plaza will continue to captivate visitors well after Expo 2020 concludes. As the site transitions into District 2020, the plaza will be transformed into a linking hub for a vibrant commercial precinct.

At a glance

  • Client
    Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture for Expo 2020
  • Services
    Commercial Success
  • sector
    Public & Civic
  • Location
    Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Bringing imagination to life

Some of the world’s most inspiring and enduring landmarks were originally constructed for expositions, like the Eiffel Tower in Paris and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. With that in mind,

RLB’s client, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, had grand vision for an “urban room” – a new meeting place and a shaded microclimate unlike anything else in the world. But bringing this world-leading vision to life on time and budget would always be a tough task – which is why our client turned to another world leader.

RLB had already forged a strong relationship with Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, had deep experience working on major events and expositions, and had an unmatched reputation for delivering iconic projects – like the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Zayad National Museum – in the region.

The world’s largest 360-degree projection screen is the definition of ‘bespoke’ architecture. To bring the architect’s vision to life, RLB’s team costed a project with no precedent, trialled and tested innovative construction technology and worked to super-tight timeframes in the midst of a pandemic. We are so proud of this iconic and important legacy project for Dubai.
Natalie Stockman, Director, RLB

With the right credentials and experience, RLB provided full cost management services on Al Wasl Plaza, from pre-contract cost consultancy to estimation through all design stages, value management and value engineering, bills of qualities and tender evaluation. To turn a dream on the drawing board into reality, RLB’s team was in continuous collaboration with the design team, proactively engaging the supply chain and market testing many of the dome’s bespoke elements to secure the right solution.

Geometry that defies gravity

The dome’s lattice framework – a geometric reference to the Expo 2020 logo, itself inspired by a 4,000-year-old ring found in the desert at Sarouq Al Hadeed – was constructed with 2,544 tonnes of steel, the weight of 25 blue whales.

The translucent fibre-glass skin that covers the steel dome can transmit light. By day, the dappled light casts halos on the park and people under the trellis. By night, more than 250 giant laser projectors splash images across the dome’s surface, which can be seen from every angle – from inside the dome, outside in the plaza, throughout the neighbourhood and, indeed, across the entire city.

  • 130
    wide 67.5 m tall dome
  • 800
    engineers and technicians engaged
  • 13.6
    of trellised steel – the height of 16 Burj Khalifas

A lasting legacy

No building can leave a positive legacy for people without being conceived with sustainability in mind. In April 2021, Expo 2020 Dubai was awarded the highest rating by the internationally recognised sustainability assessment for civil engineering, CEEQUAL. After considering Al Wasl Plaza’s carbon footprint and energy efficiency, land use, ecology, transport, resilience and pollution, Expo 2020 Dubai was awarded the highest rating for a project in the Middle East to date.

Cultural connector

Al Wasl Plaza, which means ‘connection’ in Arabic, lives up to its name. More than 25 million visitors are expected to flock to Expo 2022 during its six-month run. Once the crowds disperse, Al Wasl Plaza will remain an important community connector for decades to come.