Tuesday, January 5, 2010

H & de M Milan Expo


Herzog & De Meuron’s Milan Expo masterplan is reminiscent of Massimo Vitali’s Beach photographs of the late 90s and Andreas Gursky’s photographs from the
past decade. The proposed architecture for the global expositi on and the art photographs exhibit a similar kind of temporality, fragility, lightness, yet structure, order and

The rigorous categorization of Gursky and the “saniti zed” documentation by Vitali of the society’s aberrati ons such as semi-nudity provide an elevated politi cal perspecti ve on the consumerist society and its eff ects on the land. H &De M’s proposal for this temporary
exhibiti on for a global space similarly att empts to order and saniti ze a world which is
otherwise at odds with itself.

To this end, we want to reverse the notion of a monumentality that is associated with physical impact and instead offer a vision of landscape that is monumental in its fragility and natural beauty. Just like nature, the Expo will also change over time… it will have provided a foundation for flexible and sustainable development in the entire region, ultimately redefining our long-term approach to the worldwide production of foodstuffs. [Herzog & de Meuron, architect's statement]

With an Expo theme of “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”, the Herzog & de Meuron master plan deliberately makes a paradigm shift away from the monumental buildings (eg. Eiffel Tower, 1889) or big pointy towers (eg. Space Needle) that characterise past Expos.At first glance, the scheme looks like it could be for an anonymous new city in the Middle East but on closer inspection it reflects some romantic elements of Italian cities – Venetian canals and picturesque agrarian scenes in Tuscany – that sit within a rigourous urban structure.
The design is organised around a 1.4 kilometre long boulevard about the scale of the Ramblas in Barcelona or parts of the Champs Elysées in Paris. In the tradition of Roman cities, this primary axis intersects a secondary boulevard that connects the Expo site to the city fabric. A series of strips (perhaps recalling furrows in a field) covered by shade sails cut across the boulevard axis and define the building sites for all the national pavilions. By arranging these strips perpendicular to the axis, each country has an equal frontage or representation at the Expo – despite the varying lengths and topography. Water frames the site in way that recalls the waterways of Venice (check out the boats!), provides sustainability benefits (in part a constructed wetland) as well as way to move around the Expo by boat.