The site will be repurposed into a community of shops and homes and renamed District 2020 once the fair ends on March 31

After Dubai finishes hosting the World Expo next month, the city will repurpose the international fair’s 4.38 sq km site into a residential and commercial district designed with sustainability and convenience in mind. As the event’s finale approaches, plans are already in motion for the future of the site, located near Dubai’s southern border with Abu Dhabi, when Expo 2020 wraps up on March 31.

From April, the UAE government will commence a US$8 billion transformation of the space into “District 2020”, a new residential area it dubs the “15-minute city”, based on the idea that it can be cycled across in 15 minutes and offers quick access to amenities. District 2020 forms a significant part of Dubai’s 2040 Urban Master Plan, a 20-year map for sustainable urban development in the city. 

Speaking after an event during Expo’s Health and Wellness Week, David Gourlay, director of architecture for District 2020, promised a “fully integrated community” and said wellbeing was at the heart of plans for the site: “A significant portion of District 2020’s infrastructure is centred on health and wellbeing, with the goal of supporting an active and balanced lifestyle.”

The United Arab Emirates’ most populous city has positioned itself as a conduit for ideas and innovation by hosting the World Expo, the latest in the series of large international exhibitions, held every five years in a different country each time. After a year’s postponement, the fair opened in October, becoming the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East.

Under the theme “Connecting Minds and Creating the Future”, Expo 2020 has fielded ideas related to technology, mobility and sustainability, and 192 countries are represented throughout purpose-built pavilions arranged across districts designed to be explored on foot. It has become something of a cultural hub, too: since its launch, the expo has staged concerts by Alicia Keys, Andrea Bocelli and Lang Lang, and hosted appearances by sports stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Usain Bolt, attracting more than 10 million visitors in the process.

The 15-minute city is a concept first attributed to Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo after it appeared in her 2020 re-election campaign’s plan for the French capital. As well as two hospitals, a school, shops, restaurants, offices and homes, the repurposed Dubai site will house 145,000 people and incorporate sustainable and flexible modes of transportation, including a driverless car route, continued use of its existing metro station, a 10km cycling track, wide paths for pedestrians and a 5km running track.

The project will reuse at least 80 per cent of the infrastructure used for the expo, which includes 260,000 sq ft of structures certified either gold or platinum—the highest ratings—by LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), the most respected and widely used green building rating system in the world.

District 2020 will open to tenants, residents and visitors in October 2022, while Expo 2025 will be held in Osaka, Japan, themed “Designing Future Society for Our Lives”.

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