USA Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015

Milan, Italy
Biber Architects
Milan, Italy

Paul Warchol and Saverior Lombardi Vallauri

At the end of the Milan Expo, October 31, 2015, there were more than 6 million visitors that have passed through the USA Pavilion! Twice the estimated crowd, and representing 30% of all Expo visitors, the USA Pavilion was the most visited pavilion at the Expo. On the day of its record attendance more than 65,000 people visited the pavilion, enough to fill a large football stadium. By the end of the Expo more than 50,000 people were visiting on an average day.

Plans to relocate the entire pavilion are in process, continuing the success of the pavilion in its next life. The Expo was dubbed the "Italian Miracle" so we are tempted to call the relocation its "Resurrection.” The pavilion would be one of a very few with a useful afterlife. The issue of what to do with the Expo grounds, and with the majority of the 200 buildings on site has not yet been addressed, a flaw in the entire conception. This is more typical than one would expect of Expo and especially ironic (or oxymoronic) for a supposedly sustainable Expo.

Expos (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 current Expo, in Milan, is a response to the latest US 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' shows 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 and is the main forum for self-guided viewing. The rooftop terrace features a variable SmartGlassglass canopy, adjustable in response to the sun. It has become the daily 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.

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.

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The Glass House Visitor's Center
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European Solidarity Center
Gdansk, Poland
Muzak Headquarters
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Macaulay Honors College at CUNY
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Arizona Cardinals Stadium Interiors
Tempe, USA