Expo 2015 Milano – Part 2: Sink or swim in a sea of hyper-stimulation

This is part 2 of a post dedicated to my Expo 2015 Milano visit, click here to read part 1.

When people ask me why Colombia so many distinct microclimates and why is it that we can go from heavy coat to swimming pool weather in two hours by car, I always have to pause and reflect. It’s not easy. How to explain why the country can produce such variety of produce and be home to such biodiversity?

That was the challenge countries with their own pavilions had: to explain to the general public how and why their country contributes to food security. Remember, this was a massive exhibition not an enclosed museum. Many visitors were on holidays, dense chunks of text and jargon would not be enough. Having said in part 1 that covering absolutely everything is really not possible because the space and events really exceeded our three-day capacity, this part will focus on the learning experiences that to me, a food security graduate, felt original, approachable and accurate.

Back to the question on Colombian agricultural production, they took a wonderful approach that was the same guiding concept presented by Ecuador. Appropriate. Can you guess what it is? Why not use the specific characteristic responsible for most of it? Altitude! Both countries have area that makes up some of the Andean mountainous chain. Altitudinal variations and a proximity to the equator creates lots of different thermic floors that support our varied agricultural production.

Communicating this to the general public is not easy, especially if they’re unfamiliar with the entire agriculture and food security theme. So how did it work for the visitor?

Colombia, for example, used several different rooms and projections, each one was a specific microclimate and its crop production. Ecuador had a similar approach and used these fascinating holograms.

 

Let’s briefly go back to the layout of the Expo. The countries not included in the clusters, had their own pavilion. This is a whole different universe. As an example, this is what the Ecuadorian, Colombian, Chinese and Turkish pavilions looked liked from outside. They were architectural feats! You can click on the images to see them better.

 

To motivate visitors to visit all the pavilions, the Expo organisers created this mock passport. You had to buy it separately (€5) but I really liked it as a way to remember all the countries ‘visited’ each day. Every time I exited a pavilion, I would open my passport and get a stamp. Here are a few photos so you get the idea. Click on the images.

 

Because Kazakstan will host Expo 2017 Astana, their pavilion in Milan became the centre of attention because as a strategy to attract visitors to their own event, they created an incredible pavilion that ended in a 3-D cinema experience that felt like a mini rollercoaster. Oh! I forgot to say, in between all that I learned that the apple originated in Kazakstan and that they’re the world’s largest producer of wheat. This is the thing I meant to emphasise on hyper stimulation. There was so much technology and design going on, the message (food security and renewable energy) sometimes was lost.

The lines for the ‘top’ pavilions sometimes reached 240 minutes: Japan, Saudi Arabia, Israel come to mind. My favourite pavilion, was Japan. The exterior design was not only beautiful, but the pavilion was full of detail but balance. I never felt overwhelmed. Everything was elegant and interesting. Their pavilion ended in a virtual dinner where we held real chopsticks to eat from dishes behind a screen.

We also really liked the interactive ‘flashcards’ of Azerbaijan. They were massive touch screens that gave bite size stories on important produce of the country. We liked the concept, the design, the length and wording of each card, not too little and not too much. Kept us engaged and we learned something we can recall.

Overall, I enjoyed this Expo. I think it really did raise awareness on Food Security, at least in Milan. For visitors, it was an overwhelming festival of technology that left you with an introductory idea on how some countries contribute to food security. All the feedback and questions are welcomed! Click on the pictures to read the captions.