An innovative Pavilion at the center of the World Expo in Milan will explore how digital technology can change our interactions with food – and with our fellow human beings. Designed by Italian practice Carlo Ratti Associati, together with supermarket chain COOP Italia. The Pavilion at Expo 2015 will be a real supermarket, where people can not only interact but also buy products. Its interior will resemble a sloping warehouse, with an expanse of over 1500 products displayed on large interactive tables. As people weave through different products, information will be visible on
suspended mirrors augmented with digital information.
“We wanted to design a place for people to meet and exchange products and ideas, where vertical barriers are replaced by a horizontal landscape to foster interactions. It is a bit as in old markets, where producers and consumers met each other, waving relationships”. “We were inspired by Italo Calvino’s Mr. Palomar”, adds Ratti. Every product, in fact, has a precise story to tell. Today this information reaches the consumer in a fragmented, partial way. In the near future instead, products themselves will be able to inform us about their origins and characteristics.
We will be able to discover everything about the apple we are looking at: the tree it grew on, the journey it made, the CO2 produced or the chemical treatments it received – fostering more informed consumption. This enhanced knowledge of products can, in turn, create new social links among people. “Think about leveraging the sharing economy and peer-to-peer dynamics to create a free-exchange area where everyone can be both a producer and a consumer – almost an AirBNB of home-made products”, explains Giovanni de Niederhausern, COO of Carlo Ratti Associati.
As an example, on the Expo site the “Cesarine”, an association of Italian housekeepers voted to the guardianship and exploitation of the Italian gastronomic heritage, will be present at the supermarket and share their products with customers and visitors. The outdoor of the supermarket also showcases new ways to produce food – such as farming of vertical hydroponically grown vegetables, algae and even insects. “The new technologies of urban farming could really transform unused spaces into productive areas”, adds de Niederhausern.
“It will be interesting to see if urban farming will actually get a foothold. Its effects could be disruptive not much for the quantity of food – it’s simply impossible to feed a metropolis just with the in situ production -, as for the chance to create a more direct relationship between the citizens and nature”.“ The FFD is a truly innovative project, offering visitors the chance to try out possible future scenarios of the food supply chain and to explore a wide variety of suggestions.
The Pavilion does not want to talk about the future, but use design to experiment with different new interactions. “This project is like an experiment”, concludes Ratti. “Some parts of it will be more accomplished than others. But the crucial aspect will be exposing new possible interactions to hundreds of thousand of people, who can in turn provide their feedback. As Alan Kay said, ‘The best way to predict the future is to invent it.’ This should be done in a collaborative way, a crowd-sourced future”. Source by Carlo Ratti Associati.
Location: Milan, Italy
Architect: Carlo Ratti Associati
Project Team: Andrea Galanti (Project Leader), Carlo Ratti, Giovanni de Niederhausern, Valentina Grasso, Gianluca Santosuosso, Antonio Atripaldi, Niccolò Suraci, Alberto Bottero, Gary Di Silvio, Walter Nicolino
Concept: Senseable City Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Landscape Design: Capatti Staubach Landschaftsarchitekte
Graphic Design: Studio FM Milano
Interaction Design: dotdotdot
Ecologic Design: ecoLogicStudio
System Integration: Accenture, Avanade
Vertical farming: ENEA, Ceres srl, Lucchini Idromeccanica
Client: Expo Milano 2015
Partner: COOP Italia
Images: Courtesy of Carlo Ratti Associati
Article by Marco Rinaldi