Khan’s design aimed to create the thinnest, lightest, and strongest gate while showcasing the age-old tradition of ‘mashrabiya
The surreal entrance portals that greet a visitor to Expo 2020 Dubai are larger than life. But here’s the twist: 99% of the engineering marvel is made of air, even though it’s 21 meters tall and 30 meters wide.
What about the weight of these large structures? This is the power of futuristic design – the gates weigh only 18 tonnes.
Khan makes a mark
Anglo-Pakistani architect Asif Khan – the mastermind behind Expo’s gigantic gates – has brilliantly fused the former moucharabieh design with an ultra-futuristic concept.
A true testament to his genius, he received the coveted Member of the British Empire (MBE) for his services to architecture in 2017. His studio was named “Architects of the Year” by the German Design Council in 2018.
Let’s get a feel for its subtle architectural design in regards to the world’s greatest spectacle.
The carbon fiber strands of the doors are as thin as 10mm paper. These filaments have been meticulously woven into moucharabieh patterns, creating countless tiny spaces where air passes through the door.
what is a moucharabieh?
Mashrabiya refers to a traditional architectural element linked to the Islamic world and beyond, such as Turkey and Greece.
” It’s the biggest moucharabieh never built. This gateway makes it look like it’s from the future, but the point is, it’s from the past, ”Khan said. Khaleej weather in an exclusive interview.
Mashrabiya filters light, cools spaces and has long been an important model in the Arab home.
Initially, the concept was introduced in the Middle Ages (between the 5th and the end of the 15th century in the Common Era) and until the last century.
It is most often used on the street side of the building, but can also be used indoors in a yard.
Khan borrowed the Islamic concept of moucharabieh and gave it a futuristic feel.
He pointed out that such huge gates were built as entry portals to cities at the beginning. But its design, which celebrates the innovative touch with an eye to the future, aimed to create the thinnest, lightest and strongest gate while showcasing age-old tradition.
Three of those doors are now jaw-dropping – greeting every visitor who enters the world’s greatest spectacle. These are also the last landmarks that people usually see.
Khan basks in the glory of a mission accomplished, which became a topic of discussion at the 182-day event, whose theme, “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” is inextricably linked to his creation.
“It was a difficult task to bring this extraordinary spectacle to life,” he said.
Khan’s team worked with several experts for the project.
“We have pushed to the absolute limit of structural engineering and science. We approached the automotive engineers at F1, because they are dealing with carbon fiber, to make this happen. But it was not enough.
“Then we had to work with engineers in the aviation industry who deal with carbon fiber components and work with light solar airplanes,” he said.
They went the extra mile to ensure that the entrance portals convey the Expo’s vision from history to meet the future.
Besides the doors, other major installations on the site came from Asif Khan Studios in London.
Khan had been commissioned to design the entire 6 km public domain of the Expo.
It refers to all outdoor urban spaces, walkways, awnings, benches, surrounding trees and lights, among others.
It was certainly a big project, he said, as he had to design spaces where visitors would spend most of their time.
“I wanted to do something that people will remember throughout their lives and that has the essence of Dubai tradition,” he said.
Khan first came to Dubai in 2015 to understand Arab culture, tradition and roots, so that he could create something extraordinary.
“The Expo venue was a desert on my first visit. I walked barefoot in this desert and the ideas started pouring in, ”he said.
In retrospect, Khan learned countless lessons from his experience at the Expo.
“It is a privilege to be involved in one of the greatest events the world has ever witnessed,” he added.
An architect par excellence
Khan’s design explores how material and social innovations can fundamentally alter the way people experience and shape their environment, with rigorously detailed and delivered results.
He is currently working on the New London Museum in West Smithfield and the Tselinny Center for Contemporary Culture in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
He designed the award-winning British pavilion at Astana Expo 2017 and the Hyundai pavilion at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
His notable projects include the “MegaFaces” pavilion at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, which won the Cannes Lion Grand Prix for innovation; the Coca-Cola Beatbox at the London 2012 Olympic Games, finalist in the international competition for the new Guggenheim Museum in Helsinki among 1,700 anonymous creations; and a summer pavilion for the Serpentine Gallery in the summer of 2016.
The heart behind the design
Survey: What was Khan’s architectural inspiration behind the gigantic doors?
Index: It starts with an M.