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Digital Expertise: Case study

MOTIONGATE Dubai – Making movie magic

Go behind the screen

When Aurecon and Gensler Architects set out to bring MOTIONGATE™ Dubai theme park to life, they knew the design challenges would be complex and diverse. Taking the creative imagination of a Hollywood motion picture and converting this into an immersive experience was always going to be exciting and different.

And just as much as Hollywood relies on digital design to create unimaginable worlds, they drew upon digital design to create a theme park that wows visitors and excites imaginations. MOTIONGATE™ Dubai is the the flagship theme park in Dubai Parks and Resorts and the region’s largest Hollywood-inspired theme park that was officially opened in December 2016. The park is designed to allow guests to immerse themselves in cinematic adventures inspired by 13 Hollywood films from studios such as DreamWorks Animation, Columbia Pictures Studios and Lionsgate.

Across its 372 000 square-metre footprint, visitors can access 27 rides, soar over the venue on any one of five roller-coasters, experience breathtaking multi-media rides and enjoy interactive play lab experiences. They can also enjoy a full programme of live shows and theatre experiences where stage lighting and audio were carefully designed to re-create magical world of 3D story-telling.

The MOTIONGATE Dubai project team fondly recall the day when an exasperated structural engineer exclaimed “How do you model a mushroom?”

The MOTIONGATE Dubai project team fondly recall the day when an exasperated structural engineer exclaimed “How do you model a mushroom?”

Once upon a time

Gensler first approached Aurecon to collaborate on MOTIONGATETM Dubai in December 2013. The opening date had been set for December 2016, which is a very short period to design, construct and commission such a massive venue. Aurecon was appointed to deliver all the engineering design services, including:

  • Civil and structural
  • Electrical
  • Facade
  • Fire protection and detection
  • Information and communication technologies (ICT)
  • Infrastructure
  • Mechanical
  • Plumbing

The team decided that MOTIONGATETM Dubai had to be fully digitally engineered as it allowed the various parts of the theme park to modeled and designed effectively, without passing on a huge amount of work to the site stages. They also quickly designed a process on how to go about building the wacky structures, while keeping the project on-track and creating work packages that met the needs of the construction teams.

Aurecon was appointed to deliver all the engineering design services for MOTIONGATE Dubai.

Aurecon was appointed to deliver all the engineering design services for MOTIONGATE Dubai.

"You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. 
But it takes people to make the dream a reality."

Creating the “wow” factor with digital kung-fu

BIM technology allowed Aurecon to confidently create unique experiences featuring the characters from the Smurfs, Madagascar, The Hunger Games, Kung Fu Panda, Shrek and How to Train Your Dragon. In addition to speeding up the process of creating show-stopping attractions, BIM also enabled the client to understand the cost implications of their decisions.

An example of the balancing act between cost and time was the ride foundations. Aurecon presented the client with digital models of two options for ride foundations: raft slab versus piles. While the piling option presented the lowest cost option, the final locations of the ride foundation footings were not available at the time of design. This led to the selection of the raft option which was also the faster option in terms of construction.

"The beauty of digital design is that it lends itself well to this type of multiple-iteration prototyping. The quantity surveyors can quickly calculate the costs from the different BIM model options – thus allowing the client to make better decisions promptly. It also enabled the design team to streamline construction, saving time and hassle with reworking. All-in-all, digital design was an indispensable tool to delivering this project within its short timeline," says Daniel Whyte, Aurecon’s BIM Leader for the Built Environment, Middle East.

Training our drones

Aurecon commissioned a monthly drone flight to capture video footage which proved invaluable to the construction process of MOTIONGATE Dubai.

In 2013, when construction on MOTIONGATETM Dubai commenced, the use of drones to gather project site data and capture construction progress was not commonplace in the Middle East. However, a monthly drone flight to capture video footage was commissioned which proved invaluable to the construction process.

The resulting videos were of great assistance to communicate progress with the design team dispersed across the globe. Seeing the buildings being constructed on site got everyone excited about the progress that was being made.

“As well as aiding site inspection, planning and health and safety, the future use for drones includes point cloud scanning capabilities which will feed into the BIM models and volumetric measurements. The benefit of this for the client is that real time coordination can be checked, which saves the contractor time and results in cost saving for the client as the construction phase is accelerated,” says Daniel. 


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