Laing O’Rourke Middle East team was the ‘contractor of choice’ for Al Wasl Pavilions and ‘Hammerhead’ Access Tunnel project for our unique approach.

Expo 2020 – Al Wasl Pavilions and ‘Hammerhead’ Access Tunnel
Dubai, Middle East
At a glance
For almost 200 years, World Expos have provided the platform to showcase innovations that have shaped the world that we live in.

The Laing O’Rourke Middle East team has used modern methods of construction to deliver the Al Wasl Pavilions and ‘Hammerhead’ Access Tunnel project for Dubai Bureau Expo 2020.

Located within the main event space, the scope of works for the Al Wasl Pavilions included the  construction of five separate ‘parcels’ of work. These included two near identical 12 storey buildings. One to house a 330 room hotel and the other as accommodation and banqueting facilities for the United Arab Emirates VVIP Leadership. The mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) fit out of the two buildings was completed by Crown House Technologies, and the LOR Middle East team also completed the fit out and landscaping for the main Expo 2020 opening event space.

The second element of what the team delivered was the construction of a 200 metre long ‘Hammerhead’ tunnel which sits below Al Wasl Plaza providing below ground access to the three main petals of Expo 2020 which are Sustainability, Mobility and Opportunity.

Due to the complex geometry of the site, the project was initially planned virtually using digital engineering and included the data required for future facilities management. The technology, put in the hands of our experienced team allowed us to build a fully digital representation of the physical and functional characteristics of the building, and in doing so provided certainty to the client.

Pre-cast concrete balconies and staircases were adopted into the design at an early stage, which meant that productivity could be maintained in factory-controlled conditions before the high-quality manufactured assets were delivered to the project. Our Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) capabilities also played a key part in the delivery of the MEP modules for the hotel.

During the project’s lifecycle, the client’s initial scope of works grew by almost 50%, which resulted in over 18 million working hours achieved, with  18,000 personnel receiving safety inductions; 70,000m3 of concrete being placed and over 101 tonnes of concrete waste being recycled.

Despite the additional works, and impact of a pandemic hitting the project at a critical stage of completion, our team maintained the baseline programme dates, substantially completing the buildings within the stakeholders’ required dates.

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I always get asked the question: what is your favourite project within Expo 2020 projects?  It's a very difficult question as if you ask someone who their favourite child is! Each and every project, corner, corridor of Expo2020 has stories and challenges that are totally unique.

However, Al Wasl Plaza remains the closest to my heart despite all the challenges and interesting stories behind it, and of course the incredible team who built and delivered it.

Ahmed Al Khatib Chief Development and Delivery Officer at EXPO 2020 Dubai

Expo 2020 - Dubai

Expo 2020 - Dubai

Expo 2020 - Dubai

Expo 2020 - Dubai

Expo 2020 - Dubai


A key part of our legacy on this project was our approach to safety and welfare standards. Our efforts were commended by the client and we achieved recognition in the client’s Better Together awards for two years running in 2018 and 2019. We won awards for ‘contractor of the year’ and ‘worker welfare impact and initiative’ among others.

Over 18 million

working hours achieved


of concrete placed

101 tonnes

of concrete recycled