Deep in the realms of the Expo 2020 Dubai, more precisely in the Opportunity District, it seemingly rises out of the earth – the country pavilion of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In the shape of a colossal monolith, it is set into the earth at an angle of 24 degrees and houses customized and state-of-the-art multimedia technology, inside and out!
The construction of the pavilion began in February 2019. To realize the tremendous visions for the KSA Expo, Kraftwerk Living Technologies (KLT) was responsible for the design of the audiovisual systems from concept to completion, together with the architects and designers of Boris Micka & Associates. The media technology solutions were 100% integrated into the architecture and the design process for the technology informed the building design.
With the longest interactive water feature of 32 meters, the largest LED mirror screen with 1,305.5 sqm and the largest interactive lighting floor with 7,798 LED lights, it has not only broken three Guinness World Records, but also truly reflects the past, present and future of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through groundbreaking technology. Two awards are directly based on KLT designs and construction!
Covering an area of two soccer fields and measuring about 13,000 sqm, it was the second largest country pavilion after the UAE. It was designed as a legacy pavilion which means it is still remaining after the expo, so the technical systems have been designed with long term use in mind.
The team of KLT worked on-site for more than 16 months to complete the project, through all seasons and in temperatures up to 48 degrees Celsius. It has integrated approximately 384 million pixels across all of the video displays, 1,300 custom glass panels with LED displays, creating a massive outdoor screen surface that weighs 60 tons and more than 160 digital audio channels to name just a few technical highlights.
The pavilion is one of the most technically advanced projects that KLT has ever worked on, using media technology of every kind on a scale not seen before for such an attraction!
Taking place from October 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022, the world expo, which had to be postponed by one year due to the pandemic was finally able to present its masterpieces on an area of 1083 acres. With the districts of Sustainability, Mobility and Opportunity it demonstrated how to live in balance with the world around us, how to create smarter and better connections through movement and how to unlock potential for a better future.
In an interview, architect and designer Boris Micka quipped, “I always design something that doesn’t exist and then someone has to invent it.” The invention part of this task fell to KLT, resulting in several significant outcomes and technical highlights that enhanced the KSA Expo:
7,798 interactive RGB-IR LED elements were concreted into the ground and recessed in the granite floor, allowing for special effects and even large-scale interactive games through a highly specialized tracking system.
The plaza ceiling is made up of more than 1,300 custom glass panels with 31 mm pixel pitch LED components, creating a massive outdoor screen surface that weighs a whopping 60 tons.
The 1,302.5 sqm customized mirrored LED solution was custom created by KLT. Extensive simulations were done to predict natural airflow in the gap behind the screens, and electronic components selected to cope with the high temperatures in Dubai.
The sides of the building include nearly 700 m of 16 mm ultra-high brightness LED screens for video textures and messaging, turned to 90 degrees to accommodate the required sizing.
Audio and music were an essential part. For example, a symphony orchestra was recorded to provide a musical game and fun addition to the interactive floor: When playing the games, parts of the orchestra could be triggered depending on the position and number of people standing on different areas. Audio was delivered throughout the pavilion using more than 160 digital audio channels.
All elements from the surface of the roof down to the interactive floor are synchronized and run simultaneously.
As you come to the KSA pavilion, you go from the sun to the shade when entering the wedge of the building. You are progressively dropping from 40 degrees Celsius to 24 degrees over a period of five minutes when entering the welcome area and already feel like something good is happening inside.
Besides the relaxing atmosphere in the welcome that was created with water, sound and patterns, the sides of the water fountain could be individually controlled to regulate the guest flow. In addition, a 22 m long, 2.6 mm pixel pitch LED screen welcomed the visitors.
Escalators led through a breathtaking scenery and visitors could experience the heritage and origins of the Kingdom Saudi Arabia while being transported to the next level. Projections on the rocks and buildings and a multi-channel audio system brought the scenes to life and supported the whole experience.
LAND AND PEOPLE AREA
Unique in two ways:
- Firstly, this area made exceptional use of the vertical and horizontal LED surfaces, combining the two in full sync to create the illusion of a bridge. Of course, content played an enormous role in achieving this exceptional illusion.
- Secondly, the floor mounted LED screen created the impression of looking down to earth through a viewing window. This 108 sqm screen with a pixel pitch of 3 mm was custom made to the exact curvature and diameter, with 48 unique panel types to achieve the compound curvature. The back wall was covered by a large 2.5 mm curved LED display with a total of 266 sqm.
IDENTITY FUTURE DESCENT
The descent offered visitors a glimpse into the Kingdom’s future. Thirty-one projectors were used to display a landscape showing future buildings and parks, people from multiple cultures and a vision of 2030 on each side of the descent. Even the steel structures of the building were incorporated into the futuristic content. The scenery was enhanced by 2,030 illuminated hand-blown crystals suspended overhead.
Vision was the last of the guided attractions within the pavilion. It contained one of the most significant and spectacular visual elements. Walking into this area, visitors were confronted with a huge floating sphere that appeared at a virtual diameter of 36 m in front of them (far larger than what could fit within the building) and an interactive tracking floor.
The effect here was produced by a huge Kaleidoscope utilizing four mirrors, each 14 m wide, and incorporated in a squared off conical shape. Two 4K projectors fired into the center to create the illusion of an enormous sphere which must be seen to be believed. The interactive floor was also projected onto using 14 projectors.
It could accommodate up to 54 people around through 432 capacitive user interfaces placed at the edge of the table, creating invisible touchpoints. Shaped as the country of Saudi Arabia, the Corian monster measures 14 m across. It was served by 20 x 4K projectors. Cleverly placed mirrors on the ceiling allow to get a glimpse of all the content, no matter where you stand.
To provide a really special and unforgettable user experience, the custom media technology solutions of course required customized content which Boris Micka Associates were responsible for. The team travelled about 12,000 km around the Kingdom over four months to shoot footage with a variety of cameras including 8K drones – the very first flown in the country. The team had to work closely with the military and permissions were necessary to navigate through sensitive areas.
Some content of the KSA Expo was created through collaborations with Saudi Arabian artists, who were actively involved with how to represent their work on the sphere and how to add interactive elements.
Project Owner: Saudi Aramco
Architect, Creative Design & Content Creation: Boris Micka Associates
Building Construction: ALEC Construction
Fitout & Furnishing: ALEC Fitout
AV Consultant, Technical Design, Media Technology & System Integration, Supply and Installation: Kraftwerk Living Technologies