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Artist beats architects in contest to design UK’s Milan Expo pavilion

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A team led by artist Wolfgang Buttress and including BDP is poised to win the competition to design the UK pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo with a concept based on a beehive

The Nottingham-based sculptor and painter is understood to have been chosen ahead of seven other finalists, including collaborations headed by Amanda Levete’s practice AL_A, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, Coca-Cola pavilion designer Asif Khan and David Kohn Architects. Pending a mandatory standstill period, Buttress is due to named as the winner next week.

The artist, whose team also includes specialist engineer Simmonds Studio and designers Joff + Ollie, conceived the UK centrepiece for the next World’s Fair as a virtual hive to ‘highlight the plight of the honeybee’.

In 2010 the UK wowed visitors with its ‘dandelion’ centrepiece for the Shanghai Expo. Designed by Thomas Heatherwick, the £25 million Seed Cathedral became one of the most popular national pavilions of the Chinese fair, with more than eight million visitors.

The 2015 proposal ‘explores the life of the bee colony through an immersive sensory experience – a beautiful and profound encounter leaving visitors with a lasting flavour of the British landscape’.Visitors will walk through an orchard and a wildflower meadow before entering the hive, which will ‘pulsate, buzz and glow according to signals from a real hive’.

The Expo theme is ‘Feeding the Planet: Energy for Life’ with designs focusing on food, lifestyle, technology and sustainability.

The scheme will be built within the 2015 Expo site to the north-west of the Italian city and is backed by the government’s UK Trade & Investment department.

The contest was organised by Malcolm Reading Consultants.

Global giants AECOM will work on the pavilion with the Buttress-led team as project manager, cost manager and health and safety advisor.

Previous story (AJ 17.04.14)

Milan Expo UK pavilion designs revealed

The AJ can reveal the images of the eight shortlisted designs for the UK pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo

Teams led by Amanda Levete’s practice AL_A, Asif Khan, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, David Kohn Architects, Barber & Osgerby, Grant Associates, Paul Cocksedge Studio and Wolfgang Buttress are competing for the coveted job.

The shortlist

  • AL_A with Gross.Max, Woodroffe Bassett Design, AKT II, Max Fordham, Equals, The Nature Conservancy, Exposure, The Future Laboratory and Charles Leadbeater
  • Allford Hall Monaghan Morris and Studio Myerscough with Scanlab, Atelier Ten, Eckersley O’Callaghan, Gillespies, and Mindseye
  • Asif Khan with AKT II, Atelier Ten, Ralph Appelbaum Associates, iart, ES Global, Dr. Rachel Armstrong, Andrew Pimbley and The Skinny Bib
  • Barber & Osgerby with Universal Design Studio, Map Project Office, Max Fordham, Arup, Land Use, Gensler, B Reel, Movement Strategies, Speirs + Major, Lend Lease, Sarah Miller & Partners, Imperial College, Science Museum, Angela Hartnett MBE
  • David Kohn Architects with Bompas & Parr, Jane Wernick Associates, Max Fordham, Jonathan Cook Landscape Architects, Exploration Architecture, Sara de Bondt Studio, Change Performing Arts, Random International, London Research Kitchen, Tristram Stuart, Nicola Twilley / Edible Geography and Progetto CMR
  • Grant Associates with Wilkinson Eyre Architects, Thomas Matthews, Atelier One, Atelier Ten, Seawater Greenhouse, Cornwall Food Foundation/Fifteen, Buro 4, James Wong, PT Consultants, Claire Patey, Louis Thompson, Sennep, Useful Simple Trust, Feeding the 5000, Sustainable Food Trust, LEAF and Five Hats
  • Paul Cocksedge Studio with Arup, GrowUp Urban Farms, SustainRCA and Blippar
  • Wolfgang Buttress Studio with Simmonds Studio, BDP, Slow Food UK, Martin Dewey, Dr Martin Bencsik, John Dorat, Arnia, The Social London, Nick Dewey, Robin Turner, Carl Gosling, Clear Construction Consultants Ltd, Joff + Ollie, Professor Rudi Klein and Paul Smith

Tasked with designing a ‘highly distinctive’ pavilion, the teams, whose work is shown here anonymously, had to respond to the theme of ‘Feeding the World: Energy for Life’. The designs focus on food, lifestyle, technology and sustainability.

Each team has provided images and a description of its proposals.

Team 1

Milan Expo 2015: Team 1

‘7.2 Billion people live on this Planet. Can you imagine trying to feed them all?

‘At the Milan Expo 2015 the UK will reveal a structure housing every single person on earth. This will form a uniquely British perspective on the Expo theme.  When we talk about “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”, we’re talking about people. More people = More food. That’s the challenge.

‘From the Terracotta army to Ai Wei Wei’s Sunflower Seeds, our ability to emotionally connect with population through representation is profound.

‘Remarkably a person remains recognisable at one hundredth of their real size. By scaling 7.2 Billion people by one hundredth, we have discovered that they will fit onto our Expo plot in 300 vertical layers. That’s a building measuring 80 metres long, by 15 metres wide by 12 metres high containing the entire world’s population.

‘Our pavilion will be the first to visualise the entire world’s population in three dimensions.’

Team 2

Milan Expo 2015: Team 2

‘Our Pavilion is the UK Food Machine and celebrates our island setting within two distinctive, linked environments, Sea and Land.

‘Our design takes the form of a 3 dimensional infinity loop representing the future imperative for a joined up food chain. Within this dynamic environment, the Pavilion communicates the connectedness of the UK food industry to weather, water and soil cycles through to specific future production technologies, processes and produce.  Our working Seawater Greenhouse demonstrates UK innovation in meeting global food challenges whilst demonstrating the integrated systems required for a sustainable future.  Animated by human and technological interplay, the designs capture the spirit of the UK as an advanced agricultural nation and celebrate the diversity of UK food and food culture.’

Team 3

Milan Expo 2015: Team 3

‘Our design for the UK pavilion dissolves the border between exterior and interior, creating an overall sense of organic fluidity rather than solid presence. 1,296 re-usable telegraph poles create a ready- made timber forest: a calm and quiet space inviting exploration, and a mystery that takes visitors on a journey to a concealed exhibition area within. Computer tablets installed with Augmented Reality software, accessible to all, transform the pavilion’s physical environment into a digital world of sound and colour, communicating the UK’s contribution to the Expo’s themes in a multifaceted and coherent style.’

Team 4

Milan Expo 2015: Team 4

‘Reflecting the theme “Grown in Britain, Shared Globally”, the Pavilion celebrates how British agriculture, technology and food have positively impacted the world: providing solutions to global problems, sustainably providing more with less, all from field to fork. The Pavilion will be a working model of this way of thinking: an ecological, self-sustaining system in itself. Live, real world experiments allow visitors of all ages to engage, contribute, and join the debate, creating entertaining experiences through technology and materials that bring the British success stories to life.

‘Our team brings together a world-class group of architects, exhibition, industrial and digital designers, working alongside sustainability specialists, education and food experts in a highly collaborative creative approach.’

Team 5

Milan Expo 2015: Team 5

‘Our concept, “BE”, highlights the plight of the honeybee and ways in which new research and technology are helping to address challenges, including food security and biodiversity. Visitors meander through an orchard, discover a wildflower meadow and enter a ‘virtual hive’, which pulsates, buzzes and glows according to signals from a real hive. Our proposal explores the life of the bee colony through an immersive sensory experience -a beautiful and profound encounter- leaving visitors with a lasting flavour of the British landscape. 

‘Encompassing the best of British food, music and fashion, “BE” engages and inspires visitors to think and act differently, expressing ecological interdependencies and the role of technology in cultivating a deeper understanding of our environment.’

Team 6

Milan Expo 2015: Team 6

‘#silentcurrency uses water as a metaphor to address the questions posed by the Expo.

‘80% of the water we use is hidden in our food, a shocking statistic made visible by our design. Inside a mysterious, roofless, black container, visitors walk along paths cut through a vast volume of water representing their water footprint – an immersive and memorable experience designed to inspire to change.

‘Corporate sponsorship contributes to the funding of 6 projects from 6 continents, each demonstrating a commitment to reducing water usage and showcased at the entrance. The leverage power of the Expo is exploited to find new support to end our profligate use of nature’s silent currency, making legacy as important as the exhibition itself.’

Team 7

Milan Expo 2015: Team 7

‘‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ tells the remarkable story of how British scientific and technological innovations are benefiting global food production and consumption. A monumentally light pavilion comprising a state-of-the-art glasshouse held above a picturesque garden provides the context for a journey through the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the future of strawberry cultivation.

‘Visitors will encounter wild strawberry growing in the garden and then ascend to an edible strawberry cloud in the glasshouse. There follows a loop of galleries exhibiting contemporary and future production scenarios each involving British innovation: hydroponics, aeroponics, aquaponics and LED growing. Once the Expo has closed, the glasshouse will be relocated to the UK for use as a research facility.’

Team 8

Milan Expo 2015: Team 8

‘THINKERS+GROWERS+MAKERS=SHARERS will provide every visitor with inspiration about how they can help to meet the global food challenge. We have created an immersive, memorable and friendly visitor journey based around the four themes of THINKERS + GROWERS + MAKERS = SHARERS celebrating the people and ideas that are leading scientific research, agriculture, food production and food consumption. The pavilion is designed to be a melting pot of ideas — from the local to the global.

‘Designed as a ‘collection’ of flexible built elements and experiences, visitors start in the Lab, then through the Orchard and Hanging Gardens, into our giant Oast House and end in our Market Place that celebrates the UK’s unique culture of exchange and discussion in a place for sharing, eating and drinking.’

Competition organiser Malcolm Reading commented: ‘Designing a pavilion is a unique challenge: the structure needs to say it all in a glance, yet continue to intrigue over the life of the expo. These are high-calibre teams who have produced a diverse and sparkling set of propositions.’

The six month-long fair is expected to attract more than 20 million visitors. The first expo was held in London in 1851, and the 1889 event held in Paris resulted in the construction of the Eiffel Tower.

Thomas Heatherwick designed the £25 million UK pavilion for the 2010 Expo Shanghai. He beat practices including John McAslan + Partners, Marks Barfield Architects and Zaha Hadid Architects to win the job.

The winner is expected to be announced in May.

Previous story (AJ 05.03.14)

Revealed: shortlist to design UK pavilion at Milan Expo

AHMM, Asif Khan and David Kohn are among the practices shortlisted in the contest to design the UK pavilion for the 2015 Milan Expo

The eight teams shortlisted to design a ‘highly distinctive’ pavilion include bids from Amanda Levete’s firm AL_A with engineers AKTII and Grant Associates in collaboration Wilkinson Eyre.

The shortlist

  • AL_A with The Nature Conservancy, The Future Laboratory, Exposure, Gross.max, Woodroffe Bassett, AKT II and Max Fordham 
  • Allford Hall Monaghan Morris with Scan Lab, Studio Myerscough, Richard Greenwood, Gillespies, Eckersley O’Callaghan and Atelier 10 
  • Asif Khan with Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Josh Schowald, AKT II, Atelier Ten, AECOM, iart, iLUKA, Dr. Rachel Armstrong, Andrew Pimbly and The Skinny Bib 
  • Barber & Osgerby with Universal Design Studio, Imperial College, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum,  MAP, Gensler, Max Fordham, Arup, Lend Lease, Speirs and Major and B-Reel 
  • David Kohn Architects with Bompas & Parr, London Research Kitchen, Random International, Exploration Architecture, Max Fordham, Jane Wernick, Jonathan Cook Associated, Tristram Stuart/Feeding the 5000, Change performing arts, Nicola Twilley/Edible Geography and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council 
  • Grant Associates with Wilkinson Eyre, Seawater Greenhouse, Cornwall Food Foundation, Atelier One, Atelier Ten, Thomas Matthews, Sennep, Five Hate and Buro Four 
  • Paul Cocksedge Studio with GrowUP and Arup
  • Wolfgang Buttress Studio with Slow Food UK, Martin Dewey, Tristan Simmonds Studio, BDP, Clear Consultants, Professor Rudi Klein and Fleet River Music 

The pavilion, part of the 2015 Expo in Milan, will respond to the theme of ‘Feeding the World: Energy for Life’ and will focus on food, lifestyle, technology and sustainability.

Project director Hannah Corbett, said: ‘Feeding the planet is a global challenge for both the developed and emerging world and the UK has a powerful story to tell about how we are generating world-leading breakthroughs in agri-tech, plant science, animal health as well as food and drink.

‘The Milan Expo will be a unique opportunity for the UK to demonstrate our world class innovation and creativity to millions of people around the globe.

‘I have been impressed by the number of companies who applied and am delighted that the final list represents such a diverse cross-section of British talent.’

Competition organiser Malcolm Reading, added: ‘The shortlist represents an inspiring mix of creative skills, combining design, content and interpretation and spanning a number of professional fields from architecture and music to agri-business, via engineering and story-telling.

‘The collaborative approach rises to the challenge of making a memorable pavilion for Milan and our shortlist has great talent and energy.’

The six month-long Expo in Italy is expected to attract more than 20 million visitors. The first Expo was held in London in 1851, and the 1889 event held in Paris resulted in the construction of the Eiffel Tower.

The £25 million UK pavilion for the Expo 2010 held in China, was designed by Thomas Heatherwick. Heatherwick beat Avery Associates, Draw Architects, John McAslan and Partners, Marks Barfield, and Zaha Hadid Architects to win the design competition for the structure.

The teams now have until mid-April to develop concept designs to present to the competition jury. 

A winner is expected to be announced in May.

Previous story (AJ 17.12.13)

Designers wanted for Expo 2015 UK pavilion

A contest to design a ‘highly distinctive’ UK pavilion design for the 2015 Milan Expo is set to launch in January 2014

The pavilion, part of the 2015 Expo in Milan will respond to the theme of ‘Feeding the World: Energy for Life’ and will focus on food, lifestyle, technology and sustainability.

Malcolm Reading, the organiser of the two-stage competition, said: ‘We are delighted to have been selected to find the team who will make Expo 2015 as memorable as Expo 2010 for the UK.

‘Five years on from Shanghai, Expo 2015 in Milan is another terrific opportunity to show the world what makes our design and creative teams the best in class. The challenge is different but the impact will be just as compelling. We are looking for strong collaborations and skilful design leadership.’

The £25 million UK pavilion for the Expo 2010 held in China, was designed by Thomas Heatherwick. Heatherwick beat Avery Associates, Draw Architects, John McAslan and Partners, Marks Barfield, and Zaha Hadid Architects to win the design competition for the structure.

The first Expo was held in London in 1851, and the 1889 event held in Paris resulted in the construction of the Eiffel Tower.

A winner will be selected in May 2014.

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