In 1906, Milan flung open its gates and raised the banner of Milan International, the year’s tribute to a succession of world’s fairs which had been held once every few years since Prince Albert’s The Great Exhibition in 1851. This year, Italy’s second-most populous city once more rolled carpets down its streets to host Expo Milano 2015. Under the theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”, the exhibition attempts to embrace culture and creativity as well as technology and innovation to tackle one of the foremost issues facing modern life: food and diet.
Covering an area of 1.1 square kilometers, Expo Milano 2015 boasts a large number of participants, including 145 countries, three international organizations, and an array of corporations as well as non-governmental organizations. These participants, divided into individual or grouped pavilions, attempt to address current and future problems concerning population growth and the scarcity of resources through art and designs, making the Expo a fount of ideas and architectural wonders.
The Secret Life of Bees
Architect: Wolfgang Buttress
An impressive centerpiece, the Hive is in fact a meticulously executed structure of 169,300 metal pieces, as delivered by Buttress and his team in an impeccable blend of art, engineering and architecture. Visitors can walk into the structure and experience the activity in a beehive through ingenious use of light and sound, further perfected by the play of their own emotions.
Architects: Vo Trong Nghia Architects
A unique interpretation characterizes Vietnam’s participation in Expo Milano 2015. The Vietnam Pavilion defines ‘food’ not only as bodily sustenance, but also as nourishment for the mind, especially for urban people whose unhealthy city life and overwhelming dependence on technology might threaten their own human spirit.
To tackle such a troubling problem, the Vietnam Pavilion turns to the oft-overlooked wonders of nature: trees. Instead of keeping them separate, trees are integrated into the building. Tall columns clad in bamboos and clusters of trees on top of the structure offers a solution to the problems of urban living by regenerating the concept of living in harmony with nature. The presence of plants inside the building not only creates harmony with the environment, but also makes a positive impact to the human mind.
A Playful Plaza
Architects: Studio Arthur Casas & Atelier Marko Brajovic
Rather than a bold statement, the Brazil Pavilion is a play of ideas. It manifests as a public square filled with a little bit of everything Brazilian, creating a playful, dynamic space whose purpose is to draw different people together and inspire curiosity.
Under massive metal structure of earthly colors, sinuous paths which mimic the Amazon River wind among boxes of native Brazilian plants. This pathway brings visitors from cluster to cluster dotting the ground floor, each representing an idea such as family agriculture, forestry, and integration between farming and livestock. The net-like walls and roofs are also a metaphor for a porous Brazilian culture, demonstrating flexibility and sustainability. As a result, the transition from outside to inside is fluid and gradual, symbolizing a further play on the theme of erasing boundaries.
Pause and Breathe
The Austria Pavilion offers a different perspective to this year’s theme by drawing our attention to one of the most vital resources of all: air.
A miniature Austrian forest covers the entire 560 square-meter space, offering not only a pleasantly cool sanctuary in a crowded fair, but also a model for future urban practices. The dense forest, artificially built and technologically augmented, is an example of how one can integrate nature and technology, two seemingly irreconcilable aspects of life that create a hybrid system which leads to ecological success. By its very existence as the only building in the Expo to withstand the hot, punishing Milanese summer without conventional air conditioning, it offers a solution to eco-urban-living, especially now that our future on Earth depends on how we live side by side with nature.
The Road to Juxtaposition
Architect: Daniel Libeskind
One of the non-nation pavilions, the Vanke Pavilion is designed to incorporate three ideas concerning food which are drawn from the Chinese culture: the shi-tang, a traditional Chinese dining hall; the landscape, as a fundamental element to life; and the dragon, the mythical creature traditionally believed to influence farming and sustenance.
Clad in more than 4,000 red metalized tiles, the sinuous Vanke Pavilion stands conspicuous in both shape and color. The geometric tiles create an artistic pattern reminiscent to that of dragon skin, as well as possess some useful and ingenious air purification properties. Inside the pavilion, visitors encounter a forest of 200 screens mounted on a matrix of bamboo scaffoldings. They serve a narrative purpose with the aid of twenty-two audio channels, vacillating between chaos and calm as visitors delve even deeper into the exhibition space. With each step, with every turn of the head, the space reimage itself and another story is told, resulting in a rich and layered experience, at once fragmented and yet also a whole.
Photos by : UKTI, PHOTOGRAPHERS4EXPO – Saverio Lombardi Vallauri, Daniele Madia, team.breathe.austria, terrain, Hufton+Crow, Filippo Poli, Courtesy of Atelier Marko Brajovic, Raphael Azevedo França