Food for the future

Country pavilions unveiled for Milan Expo

Brenda Dionisi
May 8, 2014
Credit | Gian Marco Anzellotti via Flickr Credit | Gian Marco Anzellotti via Flickr


Italy's business capital is gearing up to host the Universal Exhibition (Expo) fair in 2015, running from May 1 to October 31. Under the central theme, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, the Milan Expo in 2015 (@ExpoMilan2015) is expected to draw some 20 million visitors according to organizers, 6 to 8 million of which from abroad.


Almost 150 countries have signed onto the fair as exhibitor countries, while more than 60 countries will showcase national products and businesses working in the food and agri-tech sectors in dedicated country pavilions. There will also be a host of thematic pavilions, including a 'future food' district, a biodiversity park, an 'arid zones' area and areas dedicated to specialty foodstuffs such as cereals and tubers, spices and coffee.


Among the most recent countries to unveil their innovative pavilion designs was France, for which the XTU Architects studio will construct an undulating wood edifice recalling a typical French food market and even grow plants and vegetables on-site.


The innovative Italian pavilion, Padiglione Italia (, was designed by Rome-based architects Nemesi & Partners. It is a 13,000 square metre, 6-storey lattice structure featuring a highly stylized branch-like motif meant to mimic a tree and is made of biodynamic cement that captures air pollutants and converts them into inert salts. The structure's photovoltaic glass will also generate energy for the building.


During a recent official visit to Italy, US President Barack Obama confirmed a pavilion for the US (get updates @USAexpo2015) while at a ceremony held in Rome's MAXXI museum on May 18, a member of the British royal family, Prince Harry, announced the winning design for the UK pavilion by Wolfgang Buttress. In a speech at the ceremony, Prince Harry welcomed the beehive-inspired Buttress design, stating, 'Wolfgang's design has been inspired by the crucial role of the honeybee in our ecosystem.'


With a unique design recalling a beehive, Nottingham-based artist Wolfgang Buttress and his 7-member team won the 7.3-million-euro building contract. Buttress's pavilion design features an outdoor fruit orchard and natural wildflower meadow, meant to recall the typical British country landscape. This outdoor space opens up onto a 'virtual hive,' a golden orb made of fine steel lattice that pulsates, buzzes and glows according to signals from a real bee colony, offering visitors an 'immersive sensory experience.' Defined as 'experiential' by Buttress, the innovative design is meant to pay tribute to leading UK research breakthroughs in the food and agri-tech industries. Buttress also noted, 'I'm happy and honoured that I have been selected for this prestigious commission. My wish is for visitors to engage with the UK Pavilion as a whole and for the hive to be recognised as a barometer for the health of the earth; drawing parallels between a hive and human society.' See a video of the project here:; and join the conversation on Twitter here: @UKPavilion2015.


Despite such excitement and innovation for the Milan Expo, a corruption probe has cast a shadow over the major international event. On May 15, a handful of people were arrested for allegedly attempting to influence bid tenders for the global fair in Milan. Italy's audit court has launched a probe in the matter and Italian premier Matteo Renzi has enlisted Italy's new anti-bribery authority to oversee transactions. Premier Renzi insisted that Expo must go on, saying the 'State is stronger than the thieves'.


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