Milan Expo 2015

Last week was my first taste of a World Expo. The theme for 2015 ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’ provides a platform to share ideas on sustainable sources of food and nutrition and a celebration of traditional values and knowledge. Milan is hosting the spectacle at the new Rho Fiera international expo venue. We were met by a vast and seemingly never-ending canopy covered gallery, with exhibition plots either side from over 140 participating countries totaling a massive 1.1 million sqm of exhibition space. Feeling overwhelmed we took some time out in Vietnam to study the map and agree on a strategy.

The day was nothing short of a visual feast; an extravaganza of architecture and food. Each country had taken a different approach to the brief, some four storeys high with viewing platforms, others more modest, with restaurants or street food, homegrown products for sale, traditional artefacts, informational graphics, interactive interventions and interesting places to sit or move through. In Russia we were offered a cedar milk drink. We spun around on Heatherwick Magis chairs beside Italy’s ‘Tree of Life’ fountain. Japan offered Sake tasting. We talked on swings in Estonia before trying on traditional hat wear.  Bahrain had assembled a ground level linear maze of sweeping whitewash concrete walls revealing secluded courtyards of regional flora and traditional pottery and other articles; a fluid and serene set of spaces that really transformed from day to night.

The UK pavilion was designed and realized by artist Wolfgang Buttress and BDP Architects and serves as a reminder of the declining bee population worldwide.  At ground level a beautifully crafted walkway with bite size information, hole-in-the-wall films, sounds of birds and lush wild flowers and greenery on raised beds, typical of the English garden; something for all the senses.  Visitors are invited to walk upstairs past a bar serving fish & chips onto the circular platform of the ‘hive’, a metal honeycomb shaped structure rigged with lighting. The music, or sounds were ethereal and the empty space allowed for nothing else but admiration of the architecture and a truly immersive experience.  Lighting played a big part of the visual so we made a conscious effort to re-visit as the sun went down, I could have been there for hours.

The Expo is open 10am – 10pm daily and ends on 31st October 2015. To find out more visit:

Author: Jennifer Wakefield