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EXPO Milano 2015

A Guide to the Pavilions, part 3

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This is the 3rd part of our feature on the EXPO 2015 in Milan; the six-months global showcase of more than 140 participating countries that is estimated to attract 20 million visitors to its 1.1 million sq.m. of exhibition areas and 7,000 events. 

The site is located near the RHO PERO area, 9 km. north-west of the city centre. An investment of more than 4 billion Euros was estimated for the project (which run up to 13 billion eventually), that, in 5 years will give job to 40,000 people and the participation of 36,000 volunteers.    

With the submitted masterplan and design guidelines the organisers goal is for the Expo site to blend in with the environment coherently and naturally while reducing the impact of construction and consumption to the bare minimum. It is the first large-scale event to compensate for 100% of the greenhouse gas emitted through local projects to improve energy efficiency and conservative agriculture as well as the purchase of credits from the relevant international projects. It is also the first Expo to have produced specific guidelines for countries, partners and suppliers on sustainable approaches to construction and the materials used. It also presents some of the most advanced technologies in the energy field, with a smart network receiving power from micro-systems fuelled by renewable sources, and a higly innovative LED public lighting system. 

In addition to the independent pavilions EXPO Milan introduced the thematic clusters to house the countries that for various reasons decided not to create their own pavilion. They are communal exhibition spaces placed in various parts of the site and enable the participants to represent their history and culture through the agricultural and food tradition most typical of their country. Some clusters present timeless products – rice, coffee, spices, cocoa and chocolate, fruits and legumes, cereals and tubers – while others are grouped according to territory themes – biomediterranean, islands & sea, arid zones. The Clusters are the result of an International workshop comprising 18 Universities from around the world, 40 professors, 46 tutors and 127 students. Along the site 10 service buildings are also situated with cafes, restaurants, WCs and assistance.

The Expo also hosts thematic areas – uniquely designed exhibitions that explore and interpret the theme of the Expo to involve, transmit knowledge and emotions to the visitors: Pavilion Zero, Biodiversity Park, Slow Food Pavilion, Children’s Park, Future Food District (in partnership with Coop), Arts & Foods (outside the Expo site at the Triennale di Milano). It also includes non-official participants (civil society organizations and firms developing projects of interent in connection to the theme of the Expo): Cascina Triulza, Amity University of India, Caritas International, Don Bosco Network, KIP International School, Save the Children International Italia, World Association of Argonomists and CONAF, World Expo Museum, corporate (China Corporate United, Coca Cola, Federalimente, Vanke), partners (Alitalia/Etihad, Enel, Ferrero, Intesa Sanpaolo, New Holland Agriculture).


In each of the three features we present a selection of the self-built national pavilions, of the clusters and thematic areas, and of the non-official participants, corporate and partner pavilions. The visit took place between the 5th and 14th of May. 

During the six-month expo, representatives from participating countries and organizations will be sharing ideas and solutions on sustainable agriculture through conferences and related events. The various activities are designed to make us contemplate the theme from multiple perspectives. Towards the end of the expo, various awards will be given to the official participants who have best demostrated and contributed to the theme. The awards are for pavilion design, creative display, and theme development. 

In his essay about the history of World Fairs, 'Belief in the Future', Aldo Castellano notes "The most significant change (in the basic nature of these trade fairs) is perhaps in the spirit of competition between individual exhibitors from participating countries." In the early days of modernity, competition was considered a positive and effective way of encouraging the production of quality products. Although, in the following decades studies by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on food quality and agricultural surpluses, have demonstrated the degredation of current food production practices and the need to move beyond the competitive paradigm.

World Expositions are about many things: showcasing and exchanging ideas in innovation and technology, networking and outreaching among countries and organisations, a celebration of cultures and traditions, an opportunity to reflect upon our state of being and becoming. As with everything else in life, the initial concepts are charged with lofty goals and as time passes, the become not less or more but simply a mirror, a condensed microcosmos mirroring our collective reality.   


Facts about EXPOs

The Universal Expositions are organized by the Bureau Internacional de Exposiciones (BIE), taking place every five years over six months during which cultural, social and economic exchanges between countries, institutions, international bodies, ngo's and companies are strenghtended. They have an on-going tradition of 160 years. World EXPOs are regarded as the Olympics in the areas of economy, culture, science and technology.

Early events date back in 1851 (London) with the last EXPO in Shanghai in 2010 reaching 73 million visitors. Popular inventions presented in past EXPOs include: the photograph (1878 Paris), the ferris wheel (1893 Chicago), the X-ray machine (1901 Buffalo), electricity (1904 St. Louis), the television set (1939 New York), the mobile phone (1970 Osaka). According to the Protocol of BIE, a world exposition "is an event which, regardless of its name, has a primary purpose of public education, making an inventory of means available to people in order to meet the needs of the civilisation and highlighting current progress or future prospects within one or more areas of human activity".



I would like to thank The Danish Architecture Centre for supporting this project, Jakob Hybel for his editorial help, Giordana Zagami from HK Strategies for providing additional information, Paola Di Marzo and Massimiliano at the Italian Pavilion press office, Roberta Riccio at the Swiss Pavilion press office, Elena Pagano at the German Pavilion press office, Fulvia Zimmitti for the hospitality, and Panos Bazos for his invaluable and continous support.

June 2015.

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