Italy 2015 Parte Uno - Milan World Expo

Our five-yearly pilgrimage to the World Expo started with Hannover in the year 2000. Sited in Milan for 2015, there is no reason why we would give this episode a miss. While Shanghai Expo 2010 was rather disappointing due to uncivilization, we were quite confident that this Italian metropolis and world capital of design, architecture and fashion would not disappoint in the same way.

After spending a few days in Milan and at the Expo, we decided to travel south towards Rome, making stops at the magnificent coast of Cinque Terre and the beautiful city of Florence. The 13-day trip was overdosed with everything from art and design to food and wine. Foster, Libeskind and Herzog at the Expo; Botticelli, da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo at the museums, it was a visual feast of masterpieces that exemplify the finest in civilisation.

Infusing the spirit of Milan Expo 2015. What could feel better than a cup of ice cold beer in the scorching European summer.

Would have been perfect if I could enjoy my drink in this pool at the Czech Republic pavilion.

A meaningful quote in the Ireland pavilion - "We did not inherit this world from our parents, we borrowed it from our children. One day, we will return it to them. When we do, it should be every bit as bountiful as it was when we found it."

One of my favourite pavilions - the Kingdom of Bahrain. No fancy facades, no quirky forms, no shimmering LEDs shouting for attention. An elegant and humble single-storey structure.

Spaces layer and sweep across the length of the pavilion, punctuated with courtyards that bathe the interior spaces with an interplay of daylight, all sewn together with beautiful and thoughtful details.

Rising red in the Republic of Angola pavilion.

 A warm welcome at the Belgian Pavilion. Facts and figures presented in Belgian "beer" towers.

 Mouth-watering Belgian chocolates, freshly made. Best of all, they are free!

The massive membrane structure running along the entire Expo ground, providing much-needed shade during the hot summer.

The much-featured Brazil Pavilion. A sculptural mild steel signage greeting visitors at the entrance.

Some bravery required to walk across this netted structure that leads visitors into the Brazil Pavilion. Of course, there is always a ramp (on the right) for those who prefer the usual path.

Hanging garden of Brazil.

The all-white Korea Pavilion.

Walking up the Uruguay Pavilion.

China Pavilion's LED installation of a digital landscape of wheat. Good idea but execution could have been better.

Augmented reality in action.

"High walls continue through the 140 metre site in a series of parallel waves, unifying the visitor spaces within a dynamic formal language designed to convey the ridges and texture of sand dunes." Foster+Partners, UAE Pavilion.

"Visitors are drawn into the mouth of a canyon-like space, defined by two undulating 12-metre-high walls. Influenced by ancient planning principles, the pavilion’s interior evokes the narrow pedestrian streets and courtyards of the traditional desert city..." Foster+Partners, UAE Pavilion.

The auditorium "Drum" in the heart of the site, shimmering in the evening Milano sun.

"Conveying a unique sense of place, the landscaping around the pavilion is designed to evoke the UAE’s terrain and flora, while the texture of the glass-fibre reinforced concrete walls derives from a scan of dunes." Foster+Partners, UAE Pavilion.

Bought tickets to Alla Vita!, a spectacular show created and performed by Cirque du Soleil specially for Milan World Expo.

Actors lighting up at the start of the show among the audience.

Huge puppets animated in perfect synchronisation.

The grand cast of Alla Vita! against a magnificent stage set design.

Busy Metro with people all leaving the Expo ground at night.

Second day at the Expo - long queue at the entrance in the morning before gates open. Despite the stringent security checks, access was always swift and hassle-free.

Our first stop on our second day was the Italian Pavilion, possibly the most talked about and popular pavilion. Being the first group in queue for the day had significantly reduced our waiting time.

The Italian confusion. Mirrored walls, floors and ceilings all round, interspersed and layered with full-height LED media screens. It was a weirdly interesting but disorientating experience walking through spaces in such condition. And yes, good luck to those wearing short skirts.

Refuelling time. Cheers!

The Swiss Pavilion has never disappointed us since Hannover. In this tiny exhibition room, a 21-ton granite model representing thousands of square miles (1:25000 scale) of the San Gottardo Massif sits in the middle. Water drips onto the model from wooden sluices suspended from the ceiling, and then runs out through "rivers" on the pavilion floor, including the famous Rhone and Rhine.

A "river" on the floor channelling water to the wall and feeding back onto the wooden sluices on the ceiling.

Close-up on the wooden sluices executing their team work.

The German Pavilion entitled Fields of Ideas. At the entrance, each visitor was given a bi-fold card, called the “seedboard”. Sensors in the Pavilion pick up the individual card's location and project relevant information about each exhibit once the card is lifted. To "flip" and view "pages", simply flick the seedboard and new information would be projected exactly where each card is regardless of where you move it. Amazing...

Intricate and ingenious Japanese woodwork. The Japan Pavilion's iconic exterior wall employs sustainably sourced timber and assembled using compressive strain method combining traditional Japanese craftsmanship and the latest technology, without a single nail or screw.

Close-up of Japanese ingenuity.

Another memorable installation is the Austria Pavilion. A clever play of perspective and optical illusion along the entrance footpath.

Another iconic structure at the Milan Expo by Daniel Libeskind - the Vanke Pavilion. Clad in more than 4,000 red metalized ceramic tiles that is evocative of a dragon-like skin soring into the sky.

Coop supermarket of the future. Above each bin was an interactive screen listing details about its products. Inside each screen was an Xbox Kinect sensor, which allows customers to use hand gestures to highlight a particular food to find out more about it, including its nutritional content, where it came from, its carbon footprint and allergens.

The UK Pavilion designed by artist Wolfgang Buttress. Visitors follow the dance of a bee travelling through a series of landscapes. The experience starts with a journey through an orchard, followed by a wildflower meadow and finally to the impressive centrepiece - The Hive, a 14m-cubed sculptural element that uses light and sound to simulate the activity of a real beehive.

The Hive is constructed from 169,300 individual aluminium components. Assembled in 32 horizontal layers, the structure comprises three main components: chords, rods and nodes. A spherical void in the centre of the Hive allows visitors to walk in and experience the sensory representation of the bees’ activity. The LED lights embedded into the aluminium node components glow and pulsate to represent the activity captured via an accelerometer within a real beehive located almost a thousand miles away in Nottingham.

A rare moment within the centre of the Hive when I was all alone.

To be continued in Part 2...


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