Bringing together 147 countries and an anticipated 20 million visitors, the Milan Expo is taking place between May and October 2015 with a focus on the urgent challenge of how to feed the world as the global population is projected to increase to nine billion in 2050.
Under the theme Grown in Britain, the UK will be a part of it with an immersive Pavilion designed by Wolfgang Buttress and built by Stage One and RISE.
Through the Pavilion, the UK aims to boost global perceptions of the country as an excellent place for trade and investment, as well as to visit. The Pavilion will demonstrate the UK’s strengths and the business opportunities that exist across several sectors including technology, life sciences and the creative industries.
The 1,910 square metre Pavilion will be developed around the concept of the beehive, the role of the honeybee and how new research and technology are helping to address food security and biodiversity. The humble bee plays a unique role in our ecosystem and strong parallels can be drawn between the culture and interactions in a bee colony and those in human societies.
The Pavilion consists of five main areas for visitors to experience:
– The Orchard
– The Meadow
– The Terrace
– The Hive
– The Architectural Program
Visitors to the UK pavilion are greeted by an orchard of British fruit trees. The surrounding caged walls are filled with rejected, broken and reused bricks to evoke the feeling of a traditional walled English country garden.
In the Meadow
Entrance to the ‘meadow experience’ is gained via an earthy corridor of corten steel, open to the sky. The 40-metre long meadow will continually change as the plants grow over the six month Expo period.
Multiple paths and routes reference the orienteering ‘bee dance’, inviting the visitor to explore and participate in the development of their own journey towards the hive beyond.
Amphitheatre seating at the end of the meadow provides a perfect resting place to simply take in the experience, or to engage in the entertainment the UK Pavilion has to offer. The hive is raised to create a sheltered piazza area underneath. This allows visitors to pass beneath and to look up through the layers of the structure, glimpsing the movement of people within. People may seem like bees within a hive, and in this way the design plays with perceptions, shifting between the micro and macro.
Heading up to the level above, visitors arrive at the Terrace. This 300 square metre podium, sited above the Architectural Programme, plays host to an extensive social space, including a bar. Access to the Hive is gained from the Terrace area.
Elevation of the Hive
The Hive is a 14x14x14 metre 3D cuboid lattice structure made from aluminium sited upon three metre-tall columns. A spherical void hollowed from its interior allows visitors to enter.
The structure is connected to live beehives situated offsite. Audio-visual devices embedded within the structure allow it to pulse, buzz and glow according to signals from a real beehive. Accelerometers measure the vibrational activity of the real bees and these signals are fed into an array of LED lights within the sphere to generate a dynamic, visual representation of the bees’ activity. This experience offers visitors a glimpse into the life of the bee colony, and demonstrates innovative research technology through an immersive sensory experience.
Situated beneath the Terrace is the Architectural Programme. This flexible auditorium space connecting to a VIP area provides a perfect space for conferences and one-off events. At other times, this space forms part of the public experience as a video/projection and exhibition room.
Location: Milan Expo, Italy
Artist and creative lead: Wolfgang Buttress
Pavilion manufacture and production: Stage One
Construction management: RISE
Structural engineers: Simmonds Studio
Architecture, landscape architecture and environmental engineering: BDP
Physicist and bee expert: Dr Martin Bencsik