Milan's Expo 2015 has been put under a lot of pressure over the course of the past few months. From the big question of whether or not it would be completed on time, to the protest that devastated the city of Milan, everyone had great expectations for how the Expo would look when it finally opened.
I can say from my first visit, that going to Expo definitely feels like traveling to a different country, complete with its own international security check points. The entrance to the event is set up like an airport, with baggage control equipment and metal detectors. Everything from the full-security check-in to the beginning of actual fair activities resembles what you might experience trying to get to a plane in the Malpensa Airport. Finally, after all of the tunnels and stairs have been surpassed, the entire field opens onto Milan's World Fair.
You are welcomed by an army of statues that stand more than four meters tall (roughly 13 feet), each carrying and wearing symbols of food and agriculture. The second you arrive you have the impression you’re in a wonderland or Disneyland, because everything looks surreal.
The theme of Expo 2015, “Feeding the Planet. Energy for Life,” is a concept that structures the entire event. On the main road, the Decumanus axis, you can find food stands related to specific categories like wine, cheese, meat, spices, and more.
From the Decumanus you enter pavilions that represent the participating countries. It is fascinating to see the diversity of designs and concepts reflected in these pavilions. Each one has found a unique way to express their cultural values and traditions through the architecture of their pavilions. It is interesting to try and guess the messages of these pavilions, which range from using renewable materials to relying on traditional building techniques and design.
So while some of the pavilions have a design concept that isn't clearly identifiable, there are also those that clearly express the particularities of their country in a visual way. This is especially true in the pavilions belonging to Kuwait, Qatar, Thailand, and Vietnam. Many others have managed to create an entirely new world, both inside and outside their pavilions, where one can experience their culture. From architecture to their interior design, restaurants and souvenirs, these pavilions take you on a journey to other countries.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to be able to visit and learn something about every country in just one day. Similarly, Expo itself is a project that has created high expectations for the Milanese, but in reality, no one knows what results to expect from the event. For some, Expo is nothing but a land-consuming project, whereas for others, it is like a larger Biennale of Venice or an entertainment park. Despite these concerns, however, seeing the cultural assets of each pavilion is still quite impressive.
Have you ever attended a World Fair? What was your experience? Do you think your city would benefit from being a World Fair host?
Credits: Images by Alexandra Serbana. Data linked to sources.