Expo 2020 Dubai: embracing a global legacy

Vision considers the evolution of World Expos and what Expo 2020 Dubai will add to the rich history of the World Fair when it opens its doors in October 2020

1 May 1851 was a landmark in global innovation. Over 15,000 contributors gathered in London for The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations, an event that showcased the best of science, manufacturing, technology, and fine art. It embodied the spirit of the Victorian era. 

Housed in the purpose-built Crystal Palace, in London's Hyde Park, the event was unprecedented in scale. It was visited by millions, and it left a remarkable legacy: cultural and educational institutions such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science and Natural History museums, and Imperial College London can all trace their origins back to The Great Exhibition.

The Great Exhibition inspired a series of World Fairs, today known as World Expos. Taking place regularly over the last 160 years, they have become celebrations of progress and a chance for people to see, often for the first time, transformative advances ranging from the first telephone and X-ray machine, to, more recently, sustainable models for food production.

Expos are a reminder that time does not stand still, and they themselves have changed over time as well. Focused on cultural and creative exchange, contemporary Expos provide a unique platform to showcase innovation in art, culture, science and ideas.

"Expo 2020 Dubai will be a celebration of ingenuity and innovation, that provides a platform for millions of people, and hundreds of countries to come together in a spirit of collaboration and optimism," says Simon Clegg, Chief Operating Officer at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Incredible architecture has, of course, long been a focal point of any World Expo, and Expo 2020 will be no different, with award-winning British architects Foster + Partners designing the central Mobility Pavilion, an entirely ‘smart’ building with a strikingly contemporary form.

UK-based Grimshaw Architects’ futuristic Sustainability Pavilion will be equally eye-catching – but it is the details beneath the surface that will amaze visitors more. The Pavilion will be able to harvest water and electricity from the atmosphere around it so that much of its energy needs are generated by the structure itself.

There is a deep-seated purpose driving the planning and delivery of Dubai's World Expo. It will give the UAE an unprecedented opportunity to show the world what it has been doing throughout its history: bringing minds and nations together to create a better future for itself and humanity.

It will bring jobs and economic investment to the parts of society that need it most – especially our youth – and enhance the UAE’s image as a place where the world can meet safely and work together.

And by welcoming the world to Expo 2020 Dubai, the UAE can show itself at the forefront of dialogue in matters at the centre of global attention, ranging from preserving the environment, to connecting people, to creating jobs for the young.

Joseph Paxton's Crystal Palace gave people a window to see a world where progress was being driven forward by the engines of iron and steam. Today it is powered by collaboration and innovative thinking. Expo 2020 Dubai aims to connect minds and create the future.

If it succeeds in this ambition then, just like the first World Expo back in 1851, it will still be talked about as a landmark in the progress of humanity many decades, and maybe centuries, later.