2018 | Bureau of International des Expositions Bulletin 2017

Sustainable Legacy in the Planning

by Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill 

Architects and founders of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, responsible for the Master Plan of Expo 2017 Astana and for the design of Al Wasl Plaza at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Sustainable design means different things to different people – ask an engineer what it means and the response will likely include a reference to reducing energy demand, water consumption, material use, waste generation or some other tangible, measurable resource. Ask an urban designer or a community worker and you are more likely to hear words and phrases such as social equity, land use, resilience and healthy community. Ask a local government official and you may hear talk about economic stability and growth or employment opportunities and crime rates.

Sustainability has always transcended the colloquial definitions assigned to it, yet there is somehow a perceived requirement that sustainable design be all things to all people and, indeed, throughout history, the importance of issues that include cultural longevity, education and economics have always been integral to the success and sustenance of any culture.

For Expos, the critical sustainable concept includes many of the above and is most important to be delivered in a Legacy concept. This is important to the cultural and economic longevity of the City and the Country. In the end, engineering, urban design, and architecture need to all combine with the cultural and economic needs of a project. The absence of any of the above can lead to an isolated solution that does not stand the test of time.

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG) has had the pleasure and distinction of working on two recent Expos: The Astana 2017 Future Energy Expo and the Dubai 2020 World Expo. Each of these have their own unique planning and sustainable demands and characteristics. The distinction is between Specialized Expos such as Astana (where the site is fully developed by the Organizer) and World Expos such as Dubai (where the Expo is defined by the multiplicity of separately designed pavilions). The challenge of the designer in both cases is to implement sustainability throughout the whole site of a Specialized Expo, or to integrate it within the larger Master Plan of a World Expo.