Milan Expo opened its doors on 1 May, receiving a staggering two million visitors in the first month alone. That figure has now tripled, so if you are amongst those who have still to visit it and you are passionate about architecture, you have until 31 October to take advantage of an opportunity not to be missed!
With ‘Feeding the planet, energy for life’ as the central theme of Expo Milan 2015, it explores the complex and universal issue of food from an environmental, historical, cultural, anthropological, medical, technological and economic standpoint.
In addition, Milan has been turned into an architectural laboratory of excellence where both renowned and up-and-coming architects have let their imaginations run free, resulting in pavilion showcases that reflect the very latest in the world of architecture.
Indeed, one of the most striking pavilions built for the event is the contribution from the UK, which features an amazing structure inspired by bees. This structure, the result of a collaboration between Wolfgang Buttress and engineer Tristan Simmonds, is one of the highlights of the Expo due to its incredible design that recreates a real beehive. The project is also the result of ground-breaking research carried out by Dr Martin Bencsik from the University of Nottingham on the behaviour of honeybee colonies, around which the architectural design is based.
The pavilion in which this large structure is housed contains five areas: the orchard, the meadow, the terrace, the architectural programme, and the hive. Clearly the centrepiece, and therefore most important element of this sculpture, is the hive. This giant 14-cubic-metre metal structure was manufactured by Stage One, based on the outskirts of York. It is composed of three different types of aluminium component making a total of almost 170,000 individual pieces, which are assembled in 32 horizontal layers.
The spherical void in the centre is designed to offer the visitor a sensory experience based on bee activity. The idea is that visitors to the pavilion enter through the garden, where they will stroll through an orchard of apple trees, followed by a flower meadow, which in turn leads them inside the hive. Once there, they will have the feeling of actually being inside a beehive, hearing the buzzing of hundreds of bees courtesy of surround sound speakers. In addition, all the aluminium components that form the structure reflect the glow from small LED bulbs distributed throughout the space, which also pulsate to represent the activity within a hive. A unique sensory experience in an architecturally unique space.
This incredible pavilion merges art, science, nature and architecture to offer an incredible experience, which gives us a greater feeling for and understanding of the importance of biodiversity, and in particular of bees, within the food chain.