Snapshots from Milan Expo 2015: See it While You Can

While I was in Italy last week attending the Cersaie tile show in Bologna, I got a chance to take a day trip to the Milan Expo 2015. A group of American and Canadian delegates attending the show left Bologna via a chartered bus at 7:40, but due to traffic we didn’t arrive in Milan until 11:00, putting us behind our very tight schedule. Our tour was arranged by our hosts at Novita Communications, and included private tours of the United Arab Emirates, United States, Italy, United Kingdom, and Japanese pavilions at the fair. Since we had media passes we were able to by-pass the lines (which in some cases had waits of several hours) and get a personal tour of each structure.

While the expo has been open since May 1st, it is very much still drawing the crowds five months later. It was surprising for us to see so many people there on a Thursday in October. With less than a month to go, I suspect that local school groups (which there were many) and others who might have held off during the busy summer period finally decided that it’s time to visit. We only had five hours to tour the site, which is like trying to visit Disneyland in between lunch and dinner. The expo itself was in fact like a sophisticated Epcot, but with a food-centric theme and no rides. If you will be in Italy this month, it’s definitely worth a visit, even if you don’t get to see every pavilion you’d like. I only wish that this was up for at least a year to justify the impact the construction and demolition will have on the environment. The idea that these structures will all be deconstructed in a month was a real shame, and it took away some of the pleasure of touring the fair. Nonetheless, a worthwhile visit, so go while you still can! The expo closes to the public on October 31st.

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I’ve been a design journalist for over 20 years and this may be the coolest press badge I’ve ever seen.

 

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We arrived at the fair behind schedule but eager to see as much as we could.

 

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The rainbow-colors used in the graphic design for the fair were easy to read and cheerful to boot.

 

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Nutella is not a country, but it should be.

 

 

Our first stop was the United Arab Emirates pavilion, which were designed to look like sand dunes and included an Imax theater.
Our first stop was the impressive United Arab Emirates (UAE) pavilion. Designed by architects Foster + Partners to look like sand dunes, the structure included a surround-screen theater with a movie about the importance of  conserving water in the region. The UAE will host the next world expo in five years and rumors are they are already prepared to start construction.
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Making our way to the next pavilion under covered walkways. The idea that this site is temporary is amazing and, frankly, a bit depressing.
The Romanian pavilion.
The Romanian pavilion.
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A colorful facade for the Lombardy region structure.

 

The Chile pavilion. Please forgive the people in the shots, it was almost impossible to get photos without the crowd in the way.
The Chile pavilion designed by architect Cristian Undurraga. Since we had to move so quickly, it was almost impossible to get photos without the crowd in the way.

 

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Signage for the United States of America pavilion, designed by architect James Biber.
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The United States of America pavilion, designed by architect James Biber.
Stairs leading up into the USA pavilion.
Stairs leading up into the USA pavilion.
The USA pavilion featured a vertical garden along the facade and video interfaces inside.
The USA pavilion featured a vertical garden along the facade and video interfaces inside.
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The facade featured operable screens covered in herbs and vegetables.
Detail of the vertical garden on the facade.
Detail of the vertical garden on the facade.

 

A view from the roof of the USA pavilion, with a look at the beaded facade of Ecuador, which had its one pavilion at a Universal Expo for the first time.
A view from the roof of the USA pavilion, with a look at the beaded facade of Ecuador, which had its own pavilion at a Universal Expo for the first time.
The People's Republic of China pavilion.
The People’s Republic of China pavilion.
Signage at the front of the UK Pavilion, aka The Hive.
Signage at the front of the UK Pavilion, aka The Hive, designed by Nottingham-based artist Wolfgang Buttress in collaboration with engineer Tristan Simmonds and Manchester-based architectural practice BDP.
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One of my favorite pavilions, The Hive instructed visitors on the importance of honey bees to food production. You start by going through a “bee-level” garden path that is roughly designed after the pattern of the insect’s wiggle dance.
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The Hive is connected to a hive back in Nottingham, and the sounds and movements from that hive control the lights and sounds in the pavilion. This pavilion truly was a work of art.
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Detail of the metal structure that makes up The Hive.
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Looking up the clear glass center of the Hive.
I was impressed by the modern graphics used on the Holy See pavilion.
I was impressed by the modern graphics used on the Holy See pavilion.
I was thrilled to get to see the La Vucciria painting by Renato Guttoso in the Italian pavilion. It is of a Sicilian street market and can typically only be seen a private gallery in Palermo.
I was thrilled to get to see the La Vucciria painting by Renato Guttoso in the Italian pavilion. It is of a Sicilian street market and can typically only be seen a private gallery in Palermo.
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Vegetation inside the Italian pavilion.

 

The Turkey pavilion.
The Turkey pavilion.
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The Japanese pavilion, designed by architect Atsushi Kitagawa, is made with 17,000 pieces of wood wedged together without nails.

 

The Japanese pavilion, designed by architect Atsushi Kitagawa, is made with 17,000 pieces of wood wedged together without nails.
The Japanese pavilion, designed by architect Atsushi Kitagawa, is made with 17,000 pieces of wood wedged together without nails.
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We only got to spend a short time in the Japan pavilion, but it included stops to two immersive video experiences showcasing man’s fragile relationship with nature.
We only got to spend a short time in the Japan pavilion, but it included stops to two immersive video experiences showcasing man's fragile relationship with nature.
We only got to spend a short time in the Japan pavilion, but it included stops to two immersive video experiences showcasing man’s fragile relationship with nature.
The Slovakia pavilion designed by architect Karol Kállay.
The Slovakia pavilion designed by architect Karol Kállay.

 

The Russia pavilion.
The Russia pavilion.
The entrance to the Principality of Monaco pavilion designed by architect Enrico Pollini. The building will be reused as a Red Cross operational center in the African nation of Burkina Faso.
The entrance to the Principality of Monaco pavilion designed by architect Enrico Pollini. The building will be reused as a Red Cross operational center in the African nation of Burkina Faso.

 

The expo closes to the public on October 31st. For more information, you can visit expo2015.org.

 

Images © Rita Catinella Orrell

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