Lighting designer and founding partner of Woodroffe Bassett Designs, Adam Bassett, specified a wealth of IP65-rated Ayrton fixtures for the entertainment lighting rig for EXPO 2020 Dubai’s central venue, the Al Wasl dome. The rig included 182 Ayrton Perseo S profiles, 116 Ayrton Domino S profiles and 16 Ayrton Huracán LT long throw profiles.

Postponed for over a year due to Covid, EXPO 2020 Dubai finally ran for six months between 1 October 2021 and 31 March 2022, and was the largest event ever to be held in the Arab world. The indisputable centrepiece was the Al Wasl dome, a spectacular 130m-diameter by 67m-tall arching steel trellis that also became the world’s largest 360° projection surface.

Its translucent dome crowned the central Al Wasl Plaza which, as the ‘beating heart’ of EXPO 2020 Dubai, encompassed gardens and restaurants during the day and transformed into the main staging area during the evening and night. Over the course of the festival it hosted the Opening and Closing ceremonies and over 40 performances, concerts and events. It is destined to become a lasting legacy long into the future.

 Due to the inhospitable conditions of summer in the desert, fixture selection for the iconic venue was a subject of careful consideration. “Choosing fixtures that were both capable of withstanding the harsh environment that they would be required to operate in as well as delivering the high output and extensive feature set was our goal when examining the fixture options available,” says Bassett. “Among others, we chose a range of Ayrton products (Domino-S & Perseo-S) which confidently matched up these demands. Additionally, we selected the Huracán LT fixture as one of the automated follow-spot sources working in conjunction with the Follow-Me system. The Ayrton fixtures proved a reliable and effective workhorse throughout.”

The busy show schedule ran from sundown to midnight during the weekdays and 2am at weekends, plus rehearsals, which left very little time for maintenance. All the Ayrton fixtures specified by WBD are IP65 rated and have a reputation for reliability which was invaluable, given the limited amount of time and access for maintenance. “Despite these conditions, there were hardly any failings in the Ayrton fixtures,” said Senior Lighting Programmer, Chris Lose. “The Perseo in particular was rock solid.”

 The Ayrton fixtures were rigged in all of the major lighting positions. Beneath each of the forty-two projection pods located around the circumference of the dome’s trellis were 4 Ayrton Perseo S profile fixtures (total 168) and 2 Ayrton Domino S (total 84), all in sand coloured skins. These were used to light the central stage, garden areas and the wider concourse.

Four masts and four RMU positions within the garden were each hung with 4 Domino S profile fixtures (32 in total) which were used for stage and area washes from within the garden area. These also carried a total of 16 Ayrton Huracán LT long throw profile fixtures which acted as follow spots in conjunction with a Follow-Me tracking system. The mast and RMU Domino S and Huracán LT were also coated in sand coloured skins.

The only black Ayrton fixtures were 14 Perseo S profile units, located on the central audio truss 10m above the main stage, and the only fixtures to provide overhead stage lighting.

The sand-coloured skins served a dual purpose as both protection for the fixtures and as an extension of the projection surface around the dome. The lighting system was designed to blend seamlessly into the dome’s architecture, the translucence of which meant the imagery and lighting was visible from both inside and outside the dome. The sand coloured skins helped maintain the clean lines and provided a neutral surface on which to project video content when not acting as a source of illumination for the performance space.

The open architecture left the lighting very vulnerable to the elements, so the IP65 rating was essential. “One of the reasons Ayrton was specified was because of the IP65 rating,” says Senior Lighting Programmer, Chris Lose. “Its place was secured by the reputation of Perseo; Domino was unproven at this point so its specification was based on Perseo’s reliability and durability and Ayrton’s attention to detail. WBD knew a bigger, brighter version – Domino – was coming out which would cover the throw distances, and that Huracán-LT was on its way to fill in as followspots.”

 All the Ayrton fixtures (Perseo S, Domino S, Huracán LT) were supplied by Agora, the lighting supplier for Al Wasl Plaza. Ayrton Khamsin fixtures were also employed by WBD for the Jubilee Stage, an external modern large music festival stage and one of eight other entertainment spaces at EXPO 2020 Dubai, supplied by Neumann and Muller.


Text: Julie Harper
Photos: © Ralph Larmann,  © Ptarmigan Integration

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