The UK Pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo responds to the theme ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’, by highlighting the importance of pollination in our food chain. The UK Pavilion highlights the plight of the honeybee, showcasing cutting-edge research into their behaviour by Dr. Martin Bencsik.
The Pavilion was designed by Nottingham-based artist Wolfgang Buttress in collaboration with engineer Tristan Simmonds and Manchester-based architectural practice BDP, and fabricated by York-based firm Stage One. All are award-winning British talent chosen by the client, UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) though a competitive selection process.
The UK Pavilion opened to the public on 1st May 2015.
Visitors meander through an orchard, discover a wildflower meadow and enter ‘the Hive’. This 14m cubed sculpture forms the centre-piece of the design.
Visitors enter into a spherical void within the centre of this sculpture, lined by 1000 LED elements which glow and hum according to signals streamed-live from a real bee colony almost a thousand miles away in Nottingham UK. The Pavilion reinterprets the ecology of the bee as an immersive multisensory experience -a beautiful and profound encounter- leaving visitors with a lasting flavour of the British landscape.
Artist and project lead Wolfgang Buttress said: “Bees are incredibly sensitive to subtle variations and changes in conditions and their environment… So the bee can be seen as a sentinel of the earth and a barometer for the health of the Earth.”
Fabricated at Stage One’s factory just outside York, the Hive is constructed from 169,300 machined aluminium components. Assembled in 32 horizontal layers, the structure comprises three main components: chords, rods and nodes.
Alternating concentric and radial zig-zag chords form the main body of the hive and are connected by rods measuring up to one-metre long. The entire structure was optimised by Tristan Simmonds, cutting down on material and enabling the sculpture to be delicate and ephemeral.
Adam Wildi, Senior Project Director at Stage One, said: “Being appointed as Main Contractor for the UK Pavilion at Milan Expo 2105 was real validation for Stage One as a significant player in the field of complex demountable architecture. Our client UKT&I was particularly enlightened and allowed us to manage the project in an efficient and controlled manner. There have been challenges in terms of sheer volume of Hive components and a very compressed programme. Nevertheless, we are delighted to have created an astonishing pavilion in time for the opening of Expo on 1st of May.” Source by Wolfgang Buttress.
Location: Milan, Italy
Artist and creative lead: Wolfgang Buttress
Structural engineers: Simmonds Studio
Architecture, landscape architecture and services engineering: BDP
Pavilion manufacture and production: Stage One
Physicist and bee expert: Dr Martin Bencsik
Graphic and AV content: Squint Opera
Photographs: Hufton & Crow, Courtesy of Wolfgang Buttress
Article by Marco Rinaldi