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, landscaping and colours to reflect the three main themes of Mobility, Opportunity, and Sustainability.

The concept is a modern take on a traditional Arab city. A series of human-scaled, tree-lined streets efficiently deliver people to key events and pavilions, but also create a pleasant landscape conducive to relaxed wandering and discovery. 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.

The shading structures are one of the most striking elements of the Expo site. Inspired by the shape of the date palm, they comprise 52 lightweight metal structures, slender at their base and rising to 16 metres in height and width to create an interconnected canopy. The individual metal panels of the shades feature the colour and patterns unique to the identity of each district and help with intuitive wayfinding. Dappled light and shade are cast across the main pedestrian route to provide a comfortable visitor experience and protect the indigenous scented and flowering planting below.

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.


  • Location Dubai, UAE
  • Year 2021

Project team