5 years ago today, Expo 2015 Milan invited visitors to learn about and engage in the theme of “Feeding the Planet, Energy of life”. Here are few facts about the most recent World Expo:
1. A site built like a Roman city
The design of the Expo site was inspired by Roman cities, with a 1.5 km-long decumanus, an east-west-oriented road, that symbolically lead to a place where food was consumed, intersected with a 350-metre-long cardo making a perpendicular crossing that run north-south. With the site now being converted into the “MIND – Milano Innovation District”, the decumanus is being transformed into one of the longest linear parks in Europe and a social centre of the neighbourhood. MIND is set to be a hub of companies, scientists and researchers operating in the fields of life sciences, healthcare, biotech, pharma, agri-food, nutrition, data science, and will house the campus of University of Milan and the IRCSS Treatment and Research Healthcare Centre.
2. Nature transformed into architecture
Many of the pavilions embodied the theme of the Expo into their architecture. Designed by Wolfgang Buttress, the United Kingdom pavilion was designed to reinterpret apiarian ecology by building ‘the Hive’, an immersive multi-sensory experience drawing attention to the crucial role that bees play in the production of food. The Vietnam pavilion assembled bamboo, a durable and sustainable construction material, to form the shape of lotus flowers — a symbol of optimism and also a delicacy in Vietnamese cuisine where no part of the plant goes to waste. Kuwait presented “Challenge of Nature,” telling the story of a country characterised by the sands of the desert and the saltwater of the sea, and Austria, with “breathe.austria”, drew visitors’ attention to one of our most precious resources: air.
3. Horizontal presence of the United Nations
The UN’s mission to Expo 2015, with its theme “The Zero Hunger Challenge. United for a Sustainable World,” established a horizontal presence throughout the Expo with a full visitor experience. The itinerary started at Pavilion Zero, which introduced visitors to the Expo’s theme by depicting the relationship between humankind and nature and the way food production, conservation, and consumption have evolved. It notably featured a UN Garden and showcased film documentaries of five winners of the competition on Best Sustainable Development Practices.
4. Innovations in favour of food security
Hydroponics, algae, vertical gardens, desalination and crop research: solutions to increase food security and create the food of the future could be found in many of the pavilions. Belgium presented hydroponics and aquaponics (with authentic fish tanks), the use of insects (permitted in Belgium as an ingredient when mixed with other flours) and the rediscovery of common wild plants. In the UAE pavilion, the International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture showcased edible plants that are resistant to saline conditions specific to the Emirates, while the Future Food District showcased Bio-on sustainable packaging and floating structures capable of producing foods, such as the start-up Jellyfish Barge.
5. A written legacy – the Milan Charter and the MUFPP
Expo 2015 created an opportunity for governments, institutions, civil society, researchers, and others to examine the issues relating to the theme, which resulted notably in the creation of the Milan Charter and the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (MUFFP). The former, which gathered 1.5 million signatures, called on citizens, enterprises, institutions and others to work to guarantee future generations and the entire planet to the right to proper nutrition – touching on subjects such as access to food, clean water and energy, protection of the soil and natural resources. The latter was a pact signed by more than 100 cities from across the world that addresses food-related issues at the urban level. On the occasion of World Food Day on 16 October, both the Milan Charter and the MUFPP were presented to the Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon.
The Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) is the intergovernmental organisation in charge of overseeing and regulating World Expos, Specialised Expos, Horticultural Expos and the Triennale di Milano.