World Expo, Milan – Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life


The World Expo is currently taking place in Milan, Italy and the theme this year is, “Feeding the Planet, Energy For Life.” The theme is based on the need to develop sustainable lifestyles as they relate to the availability and consumption of food worldwide.  With over 1.3 billion tons of food being wasted each year, while 870 million people suffered from undernourishment between 2010-2012, the Universal Exposition has invited countries to, as the website says, “reflect upon, and seek solutions to, the contradictions of our world. From the very first expo in London in 1851, themes have evolved to represent current concerns. It’s fitting then that Expo Milano 2015 was envisioned to showcase concrete answers to today’s questions of sustainability: How can we guarantee sufficient, healthy, and safe food for everyone? How do we do that while respecting the Earth?

Milan’s “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life,” opened in May, and has given the Expo’s participants—140+ countries and international organizations and corporations like the UN and Coca Cola—an opportunity to showcase what they offer in terms of food and drink and how they do it sustainably. Organizers also asked that pavilions be built with sustainable materials that could be reused or recycled, hoping to be remembered for eco-friendly design and construction (and maybe improve on the record of the recent extravagant world’s fairs in Beijing and Seville). The Coke pavilion, designed by Giampiero Peia, will be moved and repurposed as part of a school in Milan. The slow food pavilion, devised by original expo planners Herzog & de Mauron, will be broken down and used as sheds for Italian school gardens. Also, Arexpo, the joint venture corporation that holds the land, is expected to redevelop the area.

Previous World’s Fairs have had clear impacts on governments and popular culture. That first 1851 London expo, originated by Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert, influenced the development of international trade relations. The Chicago fair in 1893 introduced electricity on a grand scale. And the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing, Queens is said to have ushered in the space age.

The legacy of Expo Milano won’t be immediately evident when its structures are dismantled come November. We’ll have to wait until 2016 and beyond to recognize whether there will be lasting positive impacts. What is heartening, though, is that there is an increasing global awareness about the pressing issues of sustainability. More and more consumers and companies are making headway in terms of making choices that leave less of a footprint for future generations. But our work is only beginning.

In the meantime, if you’re not planning a trip to Italy before the fair closes on October 31, here is a look at some of Expo Milano’s spectacular architecture. Each structure highlights a unique perspective on the life-giving energy of food—the symbol of hospitality, community, and celebration.


Italy’s “The Nursery of Italy” / Expo Milano 2015 / Daniele Mascolo


The expo’s landmark, Palazzo Italia, was designed to look like an urban forest. Its roots spread upwards to branches that culminate in a canopy of solar panels.


China’s “Land of Hope, Food for Life” / Expo Milano 2015 / Daniele Mascolo


Recalling the Chinese philosophy of man as part of nature, the building is meant to resemble a skyline floating over a “land of hope” to emphasize the importance of cities coexisting peacefully with nature.


The UK’s “Grown in Britain: Shared Globally” / Expo Milano 2015 / Daniele Mascolo

United Kingdom

This massive steel sphere resembles a beehive to raise awareness about global impacts at every level of the food chain. Interestingly, beehive sounds are mixed into the pavilion’s recorded music.


Brazil’s “Feeding the World with Solutions” / Pietro Baroni / Expo 2015


Answering the call of expo organizers to create spaces that foster engagement and interaction, this unique ‘net’ walkway provides unexpected spots to lounge and socialize.

Categories: Design

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