|Location||EXPO 2020, Dubai|
Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture
Taiyo Middle East LLC
The Al Wasl Plaza Dome, featured prominently at the 2020 World Expo in Dubai, stands as the focal point of this monumental event. This dome boasts impressive statistics: it spans 130 meters in diameter, rises to a height of 65 meters, and comprises 631 panels. These panels are divided into 30 unique shapes, each with distinct curved seamlines, collectively covering an expansive surface area of 17,400 square meters. The dome’s exceptional design, including its specially developed tan PTFE-coated fiberglass mesh, establishes it as the largest 3D projection mapping screen on the planet.
From the outset, this ambitious endeavor presented significant challenges for all stakeholders, primarily regarding its ultimate visual performance and feasibility. Our company was chosen by the client even before the construction tender, with the sole purpose of developing the fabric design and rigorously testing it through full-scale mock-ups. This rigorous process ensured that the architectural vision would be flawlessly realized.
Our Taiyo group’s expertise played a pivotal role in two key areas: the selection of appropriate materials (type, typology, and color), and the optimization of the membrane frame application on the structure. In the realm of materials, we explored various fabric options with different colors and properties until we arrived at the ideal choice: PTFE-coated fiberglass mesh in a unique tan shade. This selection maximized the visual performance interface with the projection.
Regarding the steel frame, instead of adhering to the initially planned steel arches, our team proposed curved seam lines to align with the fluid, flowing aesthetic from top to bottom. This innovation, coupled with the specialized aluminum frame system affixed to the main structure, not only led to cost savings but also delivered an exceptionally slender support frame. This approach created a sensation of ethereal fabric panels within each oculus and improved the final quality of the 3D projection mapping.
Subsequently, our company was tasked with designing, developing, creating shop drawings, engineering, fabricating, and installing the entire tensioned membrane system.
Following the conclusion of the World Expo, the dome will retain a central role in the local community’s legacy. The surrounding structures will be repurposed into hotels and other commercial establishments, complementing the Expo site’s mixed-use legacy. This location will further enhance Dubai’s vibrant events scene, providing adaptability for gatherings of all sizes and purposes, from small, intimate events to large gatherings of up to 10,000 people, such as National Day celebrations.
What Sets This Project Apart?
This project’s sheer scale, meticulous material selection, and strategic location align seamlessly with our company’s extensive capabilities. Furthermore, we recognized early on that our group’s expertise in membrane technology could greatly benefit the project, a recognition shared by the client, who engaged with us at an early stage.
Unlike previous projects, where material selection and connection systems were predefined, this project’s feasibility depended on the expert solutions we provided. The selection of the membrane, ultimately leading to the choice of a custom-made tan PTFE-coated fiberglass mesh fabric, held immense importance in achieving the desired projection screen effect.
As a result, the opportunity to transform a membrane structure into a dynamic environment through video mapping or “projection mapping” heightened our commitment to the project. Exacting tolerances and precision in execution were integral aspects of our delivery to the client, who was responsible for ensuring high-quality 3D mapping.
The fabrication and installation of the tan PTFE-coated fiberglass mesh underwent extremely detailed quality control processes, from inspecting raw materials, particularly color uniformity, to fabricating controls such as clean welding and curved seam setup, all while optimizing sustainability by minimizing waste.
Our company’s installation and construction team encountered several additional challenges, including the dome’s extraordinary height and scale, curved aluminum extrusion frames on curved fabric panels, and, most crucially, achieving the precise tensioning of fabric panels to guarantee functionality, aesthetics, and durability. This necessitated the development of specialized construction methods, addressing these challenges until the final fabric panel was in place.