Intamin Ride Leaves Lasting Impression at Expo 2020
As Expo 2020 Dubai comes to a close today, my thoughts turn to a world away. The World's fair (as we call it here in the United States) has the reputation of presenting innovations and fresh ideas. Climbing above the conventional allows us to see the world from a new perspective. Often a new vantage point can lead to fresh thinking, provide greater ability to reexamine old convictions, and provide renewed insight.
Peaceful observation wheels, family-friendly gyro towers, and fixed viewing platforms at attractions around the world not only provide grand vistas, but also an opportunity to think.
The retired “Space Spiral” at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, U.S., became an early favorite of mine while growing up. The affection for the outdoor elevator continued later in life as a ride operator inside it’s slow-moving red and orange stripped cabin “as we travel 280 feet up the spiral…” (as my spiel said).
Today, the recently renovated “Sky Tower” at SeaWorld Orlando can be seen on the horizon from my driveway in Florida, U.S. It's quite the ride: air conditioning, carpet, and padded benches like a loveseat make this is one posh cabin.
And on the west coast of the United States, the Space Needle in Seattle, Washington, U.S., serves as a beacon of new thinking as the tower provides stunning vistas from an outdoor observation patio 520 feet above ground. (The story of the Space Needle’s own massive renovation—where the solid floor was replaced with a rotating glass floor—became a Funworld cover story in March 2019). The west coast icon has roots in The Century 21 Exposition, more casually known as the Seattle World's fair, from 1962.
Each modern World’s fair introduces new concepts and pushes the bounds of conventional architecture. In Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Intamin followed this directive when designing “Garden in the Sky” for Expo 2020.
The three themes of Expo 2020 are mobility, opportunity, and sustainability; “Garden in the Sky” displays all three, perhaps with sustainability being the most jaw dropping.
The sleek cabin features two levels: one conventional seating configuration with comfortable benches facing glass panels, and an upper level on the roof of the cabin, where an all-glass railing allows for unspoiled vistas. Also found on this top level: several live trees GROWING in the ROOF of the cabin.
As the gondola slowly rises and rotates to a height of 165 feet, the trees come along for the ride. From across Expo 2020’s 1083 acres, visitors can see the sustainability in motion, as the trees rise on the horizon. It’s an opportunity well taken by Intamin (see what I did there?).
Unsuspecting passengers may not realize the cabin’s first level serves as a basement. Upon boarding, passengers enter below ground. Therefore, the gondola’s upper level sits at ground level, creating an urban park-like setting. Once the cabin rises, the “park” and its trees rise skyward with passengers allowed to stroll the top deck. Like all of Expo 2020, the experience is magic.
“For me, the world expo is—and always will be—a magical place,” says Jakob Wahl, IAAPA executive vice president and chief operating officer. “It’s a perfect showcase of architecture, the latest AV (audiovisual) technology, an educational experience, and, at the same time, a replica of how the world should be: all together for the better of society.”
Jakob’s right. Like a world expo, “Garden in the Sky” is an ambassador of fresh thinking and reinvention, and an opportunity to jump outside the box. In fact, in the final hours of Expo 2020, another attraction made news using boxes within view of “Garden in the Sky.”
IAAPA member COSI, the respected science center in Columbus, Ohio, U.S., partnered with NASA and the U.S. State Department to distribute STEM kits at the U.S.A. Pavilion to inspire the communities of underserved youth and their families. COSI team members from Ohio also performed a science demonstration onstage in Dubai. The NASA Learning Lunchbox kits, filled with five STEM activities, highlight the power of engagement that museums across the globe create each day.
While COSI and NASA's Learning Lunchbox kits will continue to inspire well past when Expo 2020 closes the gates tonight, the question looms: What will become of "Garden in the Sky?" An Intamin representative tells me the ride will continue to operate on the same site once the expo grounds transform into a small city. Purpose-build structures will transition from pavilions to mixed-use space. Several buildings will be converted to offices and residential space. The residents of this new city will continue to benefit from the gyro tower in their backyard.
Much like a gentle observation tower rotating in the sun, we’ve come full circle: starting this writing with mention of an attraction located in Ohio and closing on one. That’s the power of Expo 2020 and its observation tower: providing our global community with access to the horizon, while inspiring the future, all in 360°.
Scott Fais is IAAPA's managing editor of global communications and digital content. He always makes time to ride an observation wheel or tower when visiting attractions around the world, such as Expo 2020 Dubai. Connect with Scott at [email protected]