Building the dream

  • Motiongate Dubai will be one of the Middle East’s major tourist attractions
  • Part of the huge £2.9bn (AED13.2bn)* Dubai Parks and Resorts complex
  • There are 27 exciting movie-based rides and attractions across an 80,000m2 open-air section and the 40,000m2 Dreamworks building

In September 2014, we began work on the Dreamworks building, including structures for 10 major attractions based on the films Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon.

During the second phase of work that started in April 2015, we’re building 38 structures for Motiongate’s open-air area, themed on the films Ghostbusters, The Green Hornet, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Hotel Transylvania, Zombieland and Hunger Games, plus a five-zone Smurf Village.

Park and rides

Each attraction is effectively a bespoke structure, resembling anything from mushrooms to medieval castles, which limits the application of Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA).

However, we applied DfMA to construct the Dreamworks building itself. The steel-framed structure’s façades are made from precast horizontal hollowcore panels connected to columns and skimmed with an Exterior Insulation and Façade System (EIFS), while its standing, seam roof is supported by 28 double trusses, all manufactured offsite.

Dreamworks project leader Conor Byrne says: “The box is like six warehouses combined, each with different roof levels and configurations. The highest trusses are 26m above the ground with 40m to 60m spans, creating a feeling of space. The main structure entailed the erection of 5,500 tons of structural steelwork.

“We were having to create elements you wouldn’t normally make from concrete, like a traditional Chinese roof for Kung Fu Panda and rockwork formations,” says Conor.

To create an ambient twilight effect, more than 9,000 show lights have been installed in the building.

From the outset, we identified the need for digital engineering to deliver the project, and the complex geometry of the internal concrete and steel structures necessitated the use of digital engineering to enable the works to be communicated, measured and constructed safely.

Open-air attractions

While the 38 bespoke structures in the open-air section of Motiongate offered limited opportunities to use DfMA, the technique was used alongside digital engineering to create the Flint’s Imagination Lab attraction. Project leader Vijay Gangakhedkar explains: “It looks like a spaceship and contains a dome that would be too expensive and time-consuming to construct from in situ concrete.

“We spent a month using digital engineering to design the highly precise engineering and falseworks needed to support and align the segments during construction. The segments fitted together perfectly.”

In contrast, the Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs River Expedition ride, containing 30 million litres of water, was probably the most demanding build for the team. It was constructed from a mixture of shotcrete and waterproof concrete, with no physical waterproof membranes. Vijay says: “We needed to construct an undulating, 300m-long concrete trough for a river rapids ride to imitate rock crevasses.”

Up to the challenge

Building during a Dubai summer has its drawbacks for productivity. Due to the soaring temperatures it is prohibited to work after 12.30pm and even the ice chilled concrete has to be poured during the night shift to avoid it setting too fast. Sandstorms are also common and restrict external works. In 2016, the holy month of Ramadan commenced in June, which also reduced the working hours, with operatives fasting throughout the day.

Ultimately, thanks to the hard work and flexible approach of the teams, Motiongate will be something special.

* Source: DXB website