With only a few days remaining before the opening of the Expo 2015 World’s Fair, subtitled: “Feeding the Planet” in Milan, the vast site on the outskirts of the city is a hive of frenetic activity. Whilst uncube was visiting town for this year’s Salone del Mobile, we took the opportunity for a sneak peek at a few of the Expo pavilions just two weeks before the official opening, and found them far from complete in several respects.
In the context of our current Expotecture magazine issue, in particular our exclusive interview with the Expo’s co-masterplanner Jacques Herzog, witnessing the birth of an Expo-to-be resulted in mixed feelings. On the one hand you can’t help but be slightly awed by the attention-seeking spectacle of it all. But on the other, the perversion of the original masterplan concept of Stefano Boeri, Jacques Herzog, Ricky Burdett and William McDonough – a “radical re-invention of the idea of a World’s Fair”, ditching national pavilions: “these monuments of individual national pride”, in favour of channelling the energy into content: the very serious issue of how to feed the planet – is quite shocking.
One wonders whether we will ever manage to outgrow the compulsion for competitive exhibitionism as a species. Even half a century ago, during the masterplanning of the ‘67 Expo in Montreal, architect Moshe Safdie tells us (in another exclusive interview as part of our month of all things Expo) that the organisers there originally tried to convince the participating nations – unsuccessfully – to tone down the national branding: “but this soon turned out to be impossible, because the countries demanded pavilions!”
That’s not to say that there aren’t designers around more than capable of – and indeed successful at – satisfying the desire for dazzle, whilst still getting a message across in a responsibly sustainable way. It just looks like, at the moment, the world’s fair stage is not the place to go looking for them.
Meanwhile the Expo 2015 in Milan has a more pressing problem: when we visited 14 days before the opening, it was far from finished. Although many buildings were in their final stages of completion, the interiors seemed to be another story. And the surrounding infrastructure of roads, pathways, landscaping, signage, street furniture was, well, let’s say: provisional. If they manage to pull it off in time then respect will very much be due to the many hundreds of construction workers working around the clock to ensure we can eat ice creams and popcorn at an overpriced piece of fun masquerading as a moral message.
– Sophie Lovell
Further reading: uncube magazine issue no.32: Expotecture