An enormous flexible canopy of photovoltaic cells will shade the pavilions at Dubai’s 2020 expo, an innovative step towards greater energy efficiency for the international event, but critics warn that the workers slated to build the necessary infrastructure stand to suffer the most.
This is the first time a country in the Middle East will host the Expo, which is a great boon for Dubai and the Gulf countries in general, which have pushed really hard to make their presence known in the international sphere.
From the Masdar-sponsored World Future Energy Summit, one of the most important energy networking events on earth, to athletic gatherings such as the World Cup coming to Qatar in 2022, these events help to shift the global perception that the Middle East’s is only populated by either rich Arabs who keep cheetahs as pets or terrorists.
Renowned architects HOK and Populous have been picked to design the pavilions, which are inspired by the souk or Arab market. Larger pavilions will be arranged on the perimeter, while smaller booths will be aligned closer to the center, and the whole facility will be organized around a central distribution core.
The theme of the expo will be “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.”
A carefully designed human circulation system is designed to foster new connections, and a fully automated underground tube system will connect the pavilions in a way that keeps services “invisible.”
But that’s not all that will be invisible. We have walked the back streets of Dubai, just two blocks from the glittering skyscrapers and retail outfits that make up what the Expo design team call its “essence,” and we have seen the squalor in which the city’s workers are forced to live.
While laws have improved, those that regulate hours and working conditions are poorly enforced, and many people die or fall seriously ill from laboring under the hot sun without proper nutrition or shade.
Sara Kamalvand, a respected designer who was deported from Dubai for being “brown,” according to her, wrote this upon hearing the announcement that Dubai has been selected to host the 2020 Expo.
“#Expo2020 will proliferate the slavery of Indians, bangladeshis, pakis, and the rest of the brown people [sic] of this planet, that are serving a white washed society, clinging to the last remains of a petrol hungry, non-spaced anaesthetic past. By placing the expo in Dubai we will only emphasize our own madness, and the deterioration of all human values.”
So the solar canopy (which will be turned into a big light show at night) and the 50 percent clean energy that will be generated on-site are all huge steps for Dubai, which up until recently has paid little more than lip service to genuine green innovation, but a truly sustainable system transcends building materials and energy generation.
The people who build these magnificent monuments to excess should at least get fair recompense.