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Milan Expo 2015: United States of America

Biber Architects


Year Completed



35,000 sq. feet


Milan Expo 2015

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Project Description

Expo's (or World's Fairs, World Expos, International Expositions, etc.) occur about every 5 years and started in 1851 with the Crystal Palace in London. The last Expo in Shanghai in 2010 featured a USA Pavilion that was a closed, opaque oddly shaped building filled with video monitors and entered via a long, long queue. Our design for the next Expo, in Milan in 2015, is a response to our latest pavilions and a gesture of openness, transparency and accessibility.

The entire Expo is themed "Feed the Planet, Energy for Life", devoted to food; global, local and personal. The USA Pavilion, named 'American Food 2.0, United to Feed the Planet' intends to show just how engaged the US is in global food security, food innovation and has become a center for the best food on the planet. Admittedly a complex set of ideas for a relatively small pavilion to convey!

The pavilion opens its airplane hangar sized door to the main pedestrian approach, like an invitation to enter, and is as open, airy and breezy as a building can be. The Boardwalk (made of recycled lumber from America's boardwalks) rises to the second level, concealing a defined exhibition below (where a queue will be managed) and is the main forum for self -guided viewing. The rooftop terrace features a variable glass shade and energy generating panels above, and a translucent floor below. It will be a nightly party for the rooftop craving Italian crowds.

But the main architectural feature is a football-field-length Vertical Farm featuring a variety of harvestable crops in a vertical array. It is as though a typical horizontal field was rotated (think "Inception" with a farm field standing-in for Paris...) to become the side of a building. It's not our proposal for serious urban or vertical farming, which is usually indoors, but a didactic display talking about the past, present and future of the American farm, and the American diet.

In addition to 'farmers' working the (vertical) fields every day, there will be spectacular performances on the vertical wall; like the Flying Wallendas meet Martha Graham in her ballet for Aaron Copeland's Appalachian Spring. Graham's 1944 performance, with Merce Cunningham as the Revivalist, was the quintessential expression of the modern American Identity in dance and music. We hope that the harvest ballet will act as this moment's American Food 2.0 identity.

The pavilion itself is a scaffolding for ideas, a rethinking of the nature of the Expo pavilion and of America as a force in the food world.

-via Biber Architects
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