Expo 2020 Dubai

A first for the Middle East

Transforming a desert site into a spectacular World Expo and leaving a lasting legacy for future generations

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Expo 2020 Dubai Project summary


Expo Dubai 2020

Key Partners


Services provided

Design management, sustainability management, carbon management, urban planning, procurement services, construction management, project management, logistics

Services provided

Project and programme management, Cost consultancy, Consult


Arts, Offices, Housing and regeneration, Stadiums and major venues


UAE Dubai, Middle East and North Africa


Project story

Every person has their journey. Every building has its purpose. Every project has its story. 

The story of Expo 2020 Dubai involves the remarkable transformation of a 1,083-acre site into a location capable of hosting a 6-month long event, attended by over 24 million people. And the story doesn’t end there. Beyond the venue itself, the project’s legacy is one that continues to be written; leaving a lasting imprint on the region as well as for future generations to come.

For seven consecutive years, Mace worked alongside Jacobs in a joint venture (JV) to support the delivery of the infrastructure for the largest global event ever held in the Middle East: Expo 2020 Dubai.

The awe-inspiring event opened its doors to the public from 1 October 2021 for 183 consecutive days, showcasing the world's most innovative ideas around its subthemes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability.

In its role as Official Programme Delivery Management Provider, Mace and Jacobs worked with Expo to manage the overall programme delivery, helping to manage 40 individual projects, 300 contracts and including development of the masterplan, infrastructure and public realm spaces for the event, all the way through to the site’s legacy transition.

The Thematic Districts and Al Wasl Plaza

The largest project managed by the JV included the Thematic Districts”: ‘Opportunity’, ‘Mobility’ and ‘Sustainability’, which span an area of 4 sq. km and form ‘petals’ around Al Wasl Plaza, the beating heart of Expo 2020.

These ‘petals’ use unique geometry to reflect the Expo’s three distinct themes - with ‘Opportunity’ inspired by the desert in its glowing oranges and yellows, ‘Sustainability’ by nature and vegetation, and 'Mobility’ by water and the electronic glow of technology.

With a mega Thematic Pavilion and numerous Country Pavilions in each district, the total area comprises 86 buildings spread over the subtheme zones, equating to 220,000 sqm of exhibition space and 160,000 sqm of connecting basements. Following the successful management of the design, the JV’s in-depth understanding of the supply chain enabled package procurement and the delivery of these thematic districts in just 26 months.

Meanwhile, at the centre of Al Wasl Plaza sits the iconic Al Wasl dome. Tall enough to overshadow the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the dome is the true centrepiece of Expo 2020 Dubai, connecting three Thematic Districts and providing an immersive experience and focal point for visitors.

Enclosing a space of 724,000 cubic metres and standing 67.5 metres tall, the 130-metre-wide domed steel trellis encircles Al Wasl Plaza. The completion of this striking architectural landmark was one of the most prominent engineering feats of the programme, and the JV supported the design development, procurement, coordination, logistics and delivery oversight of the works.

The dome’s crowning alone was the culmination of 14 months of planning, preparation, and assembly at ground level before it could be raised into place. The 22.5-metre, 550-tonne moulded steel crown had to be positioned on top of the vertical trellis, using a ‘strand-jacking’ technique, with a margin of error of only three millimetres.

Knitting the project together with an exceptional master plan, Mace and Jacobs also managed the delivery of site-wide infrastructure and public realm, as well as multiple parks and water features.


Project stats

6 million sqm site
40 projects
300 contracts
30,000+ workforce

points of note

Defined governance

The robust governance and reporting on Expo 2020 Dubai have set a benchmark for future, major international programme delivery. As a result of the clearly defined governance structure, set up at programme level during the 6-month mobilisation phase, the project teams could manage the supply chain effectively at project level, ensuring on-time and on-budget delivery. This governance also enabled the JV to respond in a flexible manner to the one-year postponement of the Expo as a result of the global pandemic.

Sustainable strategy

The JV defined a sustainability strategy to deliver on Expo’s objective of hosting one of the most sustainable World Expos in history. Sustainable urban development principles informed the approach at every stage; from the design and construction of the base build, temporary construction and overlay used during the event, to the legacy transition planning. Expo certified 123 buildings using the LEED Rating Systems (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) with 105 buildings achieving LEED Gold Certification and 7 buildings achieving LEED Platinum Certification. The JV also developed a Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory to implement a carbon reduction programme for Expo.

Health, safety and wellbeing

The health, safety and wellbeing of Expo’s diverse 34,000-strong workforce was a top priority, and the programme made a significant impact on worker welfare standards in the region. The JV implemented measurements for employment conditions, good standard of accommodation and safe transportation. The team also launched the ‘Promises’ campaign to increase awareness of behaviours that can cause serious injuries and fatalities, and deployed a multi-lingual ‘worker connect app’, allowing anonymous reporting of issues and monitoring of worker welfare. In response to Covid-19, robust project operational plans for site welfare, safe ways of working, PCR testing and vaccinations were also introduced.