Hopkins Architects have masterplanned, designed and delivered the largest built area of Expo 2020: the ‘Thematic Districts’, which comprise 87 permanent buildings spread over three separate ‘petals’, housing 136 participating countries. Each of the three petals has a unique and memorable character, portrayed through different geometry and colours to reflect the three main themes of Mobility, Opportunity, and Sustainability. The landscaping, designed by sub-consultant LAND Italia, has equally contributed to the definition of the character of each Thematic District:
The key word linked to Mobility is "Exploration", a concept deeply rooted in the local culture. Trade routes by land and sea have developed over the centuries and vegetation will illustrate this exchange. Plants have been exported and imported; new species have changed the identity of the landscape with new uses and new knowledges. Here we find the orchards, palm groves, the cultivation of spices, but also the more recently introduced ornamental trees.
Opportunity is the realm of art and dream; the reference landscape is desert, with its light, its heat, its vastness. Potentially the most difficult of environments it becomes the starting point, the place were anything can happen, thanks to creativity and imagination. The desert and high plains vegetation is not presented as a literal reconstruction of landscapes, but as single-species clusters. Multiple tiles that lead to the creation of something big, innovative, exciting.
Wonder and awe are experienced by the visitor in Sustainability. Planting will showcase the incredible adaptability and growth of vegetation in environments as extreme and difficult as the various landscapes of the UAE. It will also be a testimony of man's ability to live and make a living from these landscapes with brilliant and innovative solutions that can become an example for a more conscious future and sustainable resource management.
Streets are punctuated with courtyards, where people can sit and enjoy birdsong or the sound of water in an environment which evokes the qualities and character of old Dubai. A central spine runs through each district connecting to a main plaza, with water features, event stages, activity areas and rest places all clustered beneath elegant, funnel-shaped shade structures.
After Expo 2020, the project will be repurposed to provide a creative, vibrant district for start-ups and innovative tech companies with a lively campus of mixed-use buildings interconnected via bridge links that overlook landscaped spaces. The project has been awarded LEED Gold.
Marco Antonini was Planting Consultant for LAND Italia and Hopkins Architects, also dealing with the procurement of plants and the construction supervision during the execution phase for this project.