MenoMenoPiu Architects & BE.ST Architect‘s proposal for the Italian Pavilion at the Milan 2015 Expo is a light cage where the technical innovation is embedded within the structure: revolutionary glass columns sustain traditional slabs clad in marble. The building is simple and elegant in its structural system. Marble and glass are intertwined expressing the Italian architectural tradition of proportion and elegance.
Nature makes its way through the thin marble: tress are allowed to grow tall through holes in the slabs, recalling the central role of nature in a healthy feeding culture. These holes let the light from above reach the ground level where the covered plaza stands.
The latter is trimmed by a thin water layer which creates small “islands” and a mirror-like surface. Water and shadow cool down the temperature of the plaza so offering a shelter from the sunny space before the circular pond at the end of the Cardo.
The trees warm the coldness of materials and give life to the plaza. The environment which is then created beneath the Pavilion mass is an evocative place where the light is reflected and filtered by mirrors, water and glass, creating a seductive stage for people to meet.
A broad stair allows people to reach the second level where the main exhibition is located. This stair provides also a bleachers to rest and observe the crowd and the events going on in the covered plaza.
Above an open space occupies the whole floor area but for the holes from where the trees sprout coming from the ground level. Thanks to the glass columns the space is completely uninterrupted and visitors have the perception of being inside a huge transparent exhibition showcase.
The exhibition space continues at the second floor where visitors can enjoy the view over the Cardo while seating in the cafeteria.
At the second floor, from a different circulation system and through a dedicated foyer, people can access three meeting rooms (250, 150 and 50 seats) enveloped in translucent glass.
The third level is entirely occupied by the offices. Visitors have no access to this level and use different circulation systems to go past it to the rooftop restaurant. The floor is once again completely open, no partition and no fixed wall; the offices organization is free allowing total flexibility and customization.
The restaurant and the sky garden are spread all over the 4th floor. The slab is interrupted by the “usual” holes which work as deep “light wells” bringing light to the plaza 20 meters below. The restaurant can be closed from the outside by a transparent pliable glass curtain.
The sky garden is bordered on the west edge by orchards showing off the biological richness and diversity of the Italian vegetables based diet. While enjoying an Italian meal inside the restaurant or outside in the terrace visitors can have a visual reference of the cooked food they’re consuming.
A structural system composed by huge crossed beams stands at the restaurant level, thus collaborating with the glass columns to sustain the whole building. Above the beams the roof surface is covered with photovoltaic modules providing the Pavilion with the necessary daily energy.
The visual connections that are generated between every level and the different functions give birth to a permeable architecture inhabiting space without preordained boundaries. The presence of reflections, transparencies at different gradients and few regular opaque elements cause the building to have multiple levels of reading. At first simple and elegant it become clearly complex and multi-layered at a closer look.
This architecture is a symbol of a continuous exchange of ideas and intercultural relations, an interplay of spaces and volumes that reflect, prefigure, and narrate a new future.