Giles Westly On Mega-Scale Of Public Display

Giles Westly of AGB Events is an experienced creative specializing in light and projection art – with a career traversing fine art, architecture, photography, film, event design, branding design, and lighting spanning 25 years. He is currently the Head of Creative for Al Wasl Plaza Expo 2020 Dubai.Possessing a unique set of skills that combine artistic with technical, Giles facilitates the connection of large audiences and stories on the global stage.  Leading a team of specialist creatives, Giles uses visual symbolism and metaphor supported by crafted soundscape to create narratives that cross cultural and language divides, bringing unity and understanding to projects. In an exclusive interview, Live Design chats with Giles Westly about the mega-scale of public display and shares his insights into the creative aspects of the project.

In a world where we are increasingly engrossed in the details on small portable screens, there is a vibrant role for the mega-scale of public display and Al Wasl Plaza in Expo 2020 Dubai delivers in spades.

Al Wasl Plaza is the feature venue of Dubai Expo 2020. The 130m diameter semi-transparent dome draws audience in via three main avenues. From the outset this was designed as a place of harmony and refuge from the buzz of Expo, where thousands of digital screens across the site vie for attention.

Once the decision was made to host the Opening Ceremony a review of the technology required and available was undertaken. For the vision and expectations of Dubai Expo, the gentle inclusion of 84 x 30K projectors producing around 70 lux initially envisioned to augment the garden experience simply didn’t cut it anymore. 

Aspiring to a new standard worthy of this world class event, creativity and ingenuity was put to the test and, through an intensive collaboration, an ambitious proposition was developed. The result was a vastly increased inventory of 252 Christie 40K machines in 84 channels of video content. This solution propels well over 250 lux and, when including another 2,000 lighting fixtures and 30,000 ground based pixel mapped LEDs throughout the extensive gardens, the stage is set for some seriously impressive lighting projections.

The experience of walking into Al Wasl is extraordinarily remarkable - its blows me away every single time! Recent definitions of ‘immersive’ are wide-ranging and debatable but this this is no black box with half a dozen projectors filling your view- Al Wasl Plaza fills your entire visual spectrum of perception. Standing taller than the 11 storey buildings surrounding the Expo site, the 65 metre high domed trellis shrouds the plaza and allows 360 degree projection. Additionally, given the dome is translucent, the projection is visible to both those inside and external to the covered plaza, adding to the capacity of the audience and the ambience of the entire site.

The content produced specifically for this venue take you places like no other projection surface I have worked on over the last 25 years. Pair this with a dynamic 27.1 audio system with sufficient power to shift the tectonic plates, the audience is truly inside the show. As good as this looks on Instagram, no photographic images truly transmit the experience of being there - it is unquestionably a truly embracing and multi-sensory experience.

Al Wasl Plaza at Expo 2020 Dubai

Opening Ceremony Highlights - Image credit Expo 2020 Dubai

Expo 2020 Dubai welcomed 411,768 ticketed visits in its first ten days of opening on 1 October 2021. Another 3 million people watched the opening ceremony live online. 

Al Wasl Plaza’s incredible dome – the world’s largest 360-degree projection surface and an unprecedented feat of engineering. The name Al Wasl means ‘connection’ in Arabic, and Al Wasl Plaza is the beating heart of the Expo 2020 site, connecting the three Thematic Districts and providing a focal point for visitors throughout the six-month event. Al Wasl Plaza has been designed to form a grand ‘urban room’, a meeting place that creates a shaded microclimate unlike anywhere else in Dubai; a space that simultaneously and uniquely encompasses vibrant performances and natural landscaping.

From Friday, 29 October to Friday, 5 November. Al Wasl Plaza, the beating heart of Expo, marks the occasion with striking traditional décor and specially curated illuminating projection showcases to celebrate the Hindu festival of lights Diwali.

Expo 2020 Dubai runs until 31 March 2022, with 200 pavilions in total for visitors to explore. As well as the attractions at each location, there are multiple daily events, with panel discussions and cultural performances.

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