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School of Landscape Architecture Instructor Works on Dubai World Expo 2020

On October 20, 2019, the most awaited Dubai World Expo 2020 will open its doors, and the rest of the world will finally be able to see and experience what the teams of dedicated and highly talented designers—including Academy of Art University instructor Sergio Lima—have been toiling so hard for in the past couple of years.

Renowned: The World Expo

The World Expo has a long, prestigious history dating all the way back to 1851, when it was still known as The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations. It was created to be a platform for people all over the world to congregate and showcase innovation, and encourage collaboration. Its modern-day version happens only once every five years.

It only made natural sense for Dubai to make and win the bid back in 2013. After all, they epitomize the very essence of innovation, from the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, to their ultramodern architecture, artificial islands, and their highly luxurious shopping and entertainment centers.

Said to be a major game-changer for Dubai, the 2020 World Expo is estimated to have a total cost of anywhere between US$2-4 billion. For every day that it is open, it is expected to have as much 145,000 visitors. That’s a massive 25 million people heading to what is otherwise known as “The World’s Greatest Show” for the next six months.

To become part of the elite roster of designers tasked with bringing Dubai’s vision of the World Expo to life is, therefore, a huge source of pride and honor.

Those Who Can, Do and Teach Too

Sergio Lima is an instructor for Post Industrial Urban Open Spaces (LAN 277) in the School of Landscape Architecture. In this class, he teaches students to compare and contrast designed outdoors spaces from various eras, all the way back from the Renaissance period to present-day, and contextualize their historical relevance.

He is also an associate principal landscape architect for renowned design firm, SWA, in their San Francisco office. Among their notable projects that Lima worked on in the city is the two-and-a-half acre green roof of the California Academy of Science.

Once the Dubai World Expo 2020 opens, he can also officially add that to his already-impressive list of professional achievements.

A Practicing Professional

In 2017, he presented their firm’s design concepts for the Expo to Academy students and guests for the Fall Lecture Series. Back then, he only presented plans on the Al Wasl Plaza, a 45,000 square-foot public open space encased in an impressive 65 meters-high domed trellis that will also function as a massive 360-degree wall projection experience.

landscape architecture Sergio Lima
Sergio Lima discussing plans for Dubai World Expo 2020 in Fall Lecture Series 2017.
Photo by Alex Madison.

“This is a very exciting and innovative project,” Lima said then. “It was a challenge to resolve all the issues with the best solutions.”

And he would know. He is, after all, Al Wasl Plaza’s plant designer, which basically means he is also in charge of the parks, fountains, restaurant areas, and other public spaces for performances.

From San Francisco Classroom to Dubai World Expo

Fast-forward to today, and Lima has shared some exciting updates on this project of a lifetime. In an email he sent to his class, he goes into lecture mode, explaining every facet of the design he’s working on for the Expo:

“Perforated panels specifically engineered for the dome are incorporated in the steel trellis to create, below, a shaded and more comfortable environment. SWA has designed the entire landscape below the dome, providing a series of fountains and individually crafted garden spaces.”

Sergio Lima - Dubai World Expo 2020
Dubai World Expo 2020 WIP. Image courtesy of Sergio Lima.

“A ring boulevard wraps around the entire Expo site and will allow for the main circulation of pedestrians during the event. In order to provide a more comfortable environment protected from the intense sun exposure of the UAE, SWA, together with Werner Sobek, has designed a large trellis that follows the ring boulevard.”

Sergio Lima - Dubai World Expo 2020
Dubai World Expo 2020 WIP – Trellis. Image courtesy of Sergio Lima.

“Shade panels in the shape of birds, in multiple dimensions and materials, have been added to the trellis. Part of my task [was] to review the mock up and approve the size, number and shape of birds, including the lighting fixtures. I think that this is going to be an outstanding feature of the Expo site. Augmented reality glasses provided by the Expo for the visitors will ‘animate’ the birds, giving the illusion of seeing them in flight along the boulevard.”

Sergio Lima - Dubai World Expo 2020
Dubai World Expo 2020 WIP – Bird Panels. Image courtesy of Sergio Lima.

“The kiosk in the picture is also designed by SWA. These kiosks will host small shops across the Expo. The exterior panels change in color and size from one area of the Expo to the other.”

Sergio Lima - Dubai World Expo 2020
Dubai World Expo 2020 WIP – Kiosks . Image courtesy of Sergio Lima.

Apart from these updates, Lima also shared that in this final week leading up to the opening of the Expo, he visited several nurseries for two large parks that the SWA has also been involved in, “reviewing and tagging trees and making sure that the quality of the planting material reflects our specs.”

SWA is involved in a total of eight projects for the World Expo, which will run for six months, from October 2020 to April 2021. This iteration’s theme is “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.”

Sergio Lima - Dubai World Expo 2020
Dubai World Expo 2020 WIP – Nurseries. Image courtesy of Sergio Lima.

Hero image courtesy of Dubai World Expo 2020

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