WBD has designs on world’s largest expo
Monday, 25 April 2022
wbd-expo-2020WBD designed a house lighting rig that integrated into the structure (Photo: Ptarmigan Integration)
UAE - From October 2021 until March 2022, Expo 2020 in Dubai welcomed and hosted 192 participating countries to be a part of the journey. The long-awaited event was focused on ‘Connecting Minds and Creating the Future’ which was to be explored through the themes of sustainability, mobility and opportunity, with each of these themes having its own district.
In 2018, Woodroffe Bassett Design was approached to work as the lighting design consultant on Expo 2020 by Tareq Ghosheh, chief events and entertainment officer - events and entertainment. Adam Bassett (founding partner) led this process which quickly drew in a wider team of specialists from within the WBD family.
Simon Fraser, of Ptarmigan Integration, worked with Adam to provide technical systems design consultation. John Coman supported Adam through the design process as his associate.
The initial brief for Expo was to transform Al Wasl Plaza from a spectacular garden into a venue in order to host an ambitious daily programme of shows, concerts and ceremonies, which changed nightly over the six-month duration of Expo. Al Wasl Plaza is a 67m-tall, 130m diameter structure with 252 video projectors and an immersive sound system. With a brief to transform the space into a venue, WBD designed a house lighting rig that integrated into the structure with the clear direction not to detract from the beauty of the architecture.
This space transformed throughout the day and night to become the most beautiful canvas for our team to be creative in. Whilst Expo was open to the public during the winter months, rehearsals and programming in this outdoor dome, were carried out at the peak of summer in Dubai. It was recognised from the outset that the harsh summer environment in Dubai was going to place a lot of stress on all parts of the lighting system and that, where possible, all fixtures had to be outdoor rated.
Two thirds of the way up the dome, are mounted 159 Elation Proteus Maximus that sit outside with a custom shade to protect them from direct sunlight. Around the perimeter of the trellis are 42 Projection Pods, the gantry behind each pod supports a climate-controlled enclosure that houses ETC Relay Racks and Pathport Nodes.
Hanging below each pod are a further 82 Elation Proteus Maximus, 168 Ayrton Perseo and 84 Ayrton Domino. Al Wasl Plaza was initially designed as a garden with predominantly indigenous plants, WBD designed 30,000 custom LED pixels to be planted alongside 3,000 Birket strobes within the plants. The garden lighting has been pixel mapped to compliment projected content.
Located in the garden and on the top of service buildings, are eight lighting masts, each mast carrying two Ayrton Hurracan LT and four Ayrton Domino. On the audio truss above the stage are 14 Ayrton Perseo fixtures. The stage floor package consists of 52 Robe MegaPointe, 72 GLP X4 Bar 10, 24 GLP X4 and 24 Vari-Lite VL10 Beamwash.
Placing manned follow spots into Al Wasl Plaza was not possible. Having reviewed a number of options, WBD worked with Follow Me to develop a custom solution that met the challenging requirements. Subsequently the system has been upgraded to mask around three dimensional scenic elements.
The control system was grandMA3, running MA2 software, and disguise servers control the pixel mapped elements. Along with the 35-plus house shows that were delivered throughout the exhibition the venue was host to a number of external lighting teams bringing in concerts and special events. All these new shows needed to be ingested into the master showfile file without adversely effecting the show data already in the main file.
Chris Lose built the master showfile, acting as senior programmer with Brendan Albrey, Matt Jones and Aaron Russ supervising during Expo as resident programmers. As planning developed, eight other entertainment and event venues were added to WBD’s scope.
These consisted of the Jubilee Stage where lighting design was inspired by a contemporary large music festival main stage designed to facilitate music performances, headline talent, spoken world, dance and comedy acts. Two hundred moving fixtures consisting of Robe BMFL Wash XFs, Ayrton Khamsins, Elation Proteus Maximus, Robe Magapointes and Robe Spiiders. BMFL-LTs were used as FOH followspots utilising the FollowMe system.
The Dubai Millennium Amphitheatre, a smaller and more intimate venue was another stage designed to be multipurpose, with an emphasis on theatrical events. The DMA lighting design was inspired by a modern large scale opera theatre. It should be able to facilitate dance, music performances, spoken word and comedy acts. One hundred and eighty moving fixtures consisting of Martin Viper Performances, Martin Viper Wash DX, Martin MAC Aura XBs. Elation Proteus Maximus and Robe Megapointe were deployed here.
WBD established a separate team specifically focused on the Daily Productions in Al Wasl Plaza led by principal designer, Terry Cook who was supported by Fraser Walker as his dedicated programmer. Daily production were produced by Artist In Motion from Australia under their head of creative Richard Linsay.
Team WBD established an extensive team of multiple specialisms to support all aspects of involvement with Expo 2020. The project was headed by Adam Bassett, founding partner and principal designer for WBD and closely support by Simon Fraser as a senior technical consultant.

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