You might have heard the World's Fair is taking place this year.
You know, the ones where countries come together to show their best side for everyone else to behold.
World's Fairs originated around the industrial revolution and went out of fashion after the war, perhaps mirroring the ebb and flow of our global outlook.
Lately, there has been a surge in interest for holding what are now called Expos, with Shanghai raising the bar in 2010 to one-up Beijing's Olympics.
2015 is the year of Milan, uniting 140 countries and dozens of non-governmental organizations & corporate partners under a long roof in the outskirts of the city.
I've been following the event a while. Recently I decided to have enough affinities with the Expo to actually go visit it.
I spent two days roaming pavilions and hope the photos below sufficiently capture my experience.
Kuwait and their ship designed to sail sand dunes
The German pavilion has efficient escalators (and bratwurst)
Ecuador with a colorful, apparently knitted pavilion
USA: "American Food 2.0" (and the recurring theme of vertical agriculture)
Holland did their thing by not actually having a pavilion. Instead, they put on a festival with DJs, Virtual Reality and food trucks.
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Vanke, the largest real estate developer in China commissioned Daniel Libeskind for a pavilion with scales ridding the air of pollution
Uruguay constantly crowded
Malaysia with cocoon-inspired geodesic domes
South Korea took visitors on a virtual tour and served kimchi dishes in a seated restaurant
Angola showing their newfound might
Brazil might have gone metaphorical by having visitors trudge up a mesh
Flags provide an opportunity for brushing up your geography
Italy built a 350m corridor showcasing regional cuisines (to make Italians actually try something different)
Developing countries organized around food groups like rice, coffee and cereals
Decumano from above
The site measures 1 square kilometer, or half the size of Monaco.
UK-designed beehive (photo: Mari Di Pilla)
Turkish gardens and architecture (photo: Mari Di Pilla)
Queues at most experiential pavilions
Most country pavilions offer culinary souvenir shops
Feeding the planet
“Feeding the planet, energy for life" was selected as theme for the Expo. In other words: food everywhere (a global food court twice the size of the Vatican).
Meals are served in restaurants and from trucks. Prices are fair, considering the logistics. We sampled ruthlessly and found flavors genuine, but toned down for global appeal.
Everything below cost between €5 – €10.
Indonesia: Nasi goreng platter
Chile: Sweet manjar pancake
Chile: Avocado-tomato-pork sandwich
Morocco: Devilishly delectable sweets
Japan: Chicken Teriyaki burger from MOS Burger
Morocco: Veggie sandwich
Netherlands: Bread & cheese (the best bread & cheese you've ever tasted)
Vietnam: Spring rolls
Bangladesh: fried rice
Netherlands: Kale & fruit green juice
Morocco: Sweet mint tea
UK: J&B honey whisky
McDonald’s: Ginseng espresso
Gambia: Beef stew
Italy: Piadina romagnola
Zimbabwe: Crocodile burgers (which I regrettably mistook for a prank)
The Tree of life
Capping the experience at Expo is the Tree of Life, a 40 meter structure at the end of the Italian pavilion. The tree breathes lights throughout the day and comes alive at night with a display of music and colors.
The Tree follows the host tradition of building memorable constructions to iconize the event.
1886, 1958, 1962
Supermarket of the future
As part of the food future theme, local supermarket chain Coop put together a high-tech supermarket of the future. Product metadata is displayed on overhead screens by pointing at them. Robot arms serve fresh apples. The store is fully stocked and provides self-checkout at the exit.
Concept Kitchen 2025
Sweden is not officially present at the Expo, which did not stop IKEA from building one in Milan instead. With a promise of showcasing a 2025 kitchen, I was pretty much obliged to visit.
Traditional IKEA cuisine.