Azerbaijan has recently unveiled the design of “Treasure of Biodiversity,” its dedicated pavilion for Expo Milano 2015, marking the first time the country has participated at a Universal Exposition. Designed by Italian firm Simmetrico Network, the pavilion aims to reflect the unique cultures and landscapes of Azerbaijan while acting as a model of sustainable design. Complete with biospheres and undulating walls, the pavilion’s unique form takes cues from the central Expo theme of “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life,” and hopes to engage visitors with the values of protected biodiversity.
The pavilion is composed of simple architectural forms, built with traditional Azerbaijani materials and practices. Designed to meet optimal standards of bio-construction, the structure also takes advantage of low energy consumption and fully recyclable materials. A wooden louver wall, for example, functions as a protective skin, and allows natural daylight to enter the space while reducing energy consumption. Together, all building components were carefully chosen to allow for efficient construction and to adapt to the biodiversity needs of a particular location.
Seeking to create a better human habitat, every part of the process aims to enhance environmental wellbeing in a tangible and functional manner. Following this belief, light and transparency serve as the fundamental elements upon which the architecture of the pavilion is based. These essential elements also ensure continued flexibility for each of the interior spaces within the structure.
Forever a cultural bridge between North and South, East and West, the geographic characteristics of Azerbaijan further inform the design of the pavilion, as the country is home to nine of the eleven climactic areas that exist in the world. Thus, the three biospheres enclosed within the pavilion are a metaphor for the climatic and cultural diversity that makes Azerbaijan unique.
Visitors enter the pavilion through an expansive atrium, which doubles as an event space and introduces visitors to the natural beauty and cultural characteristics of the country. Subsequently, visitors can take escalators up to three separate levels to view three unique biospheres. Beginning with the geographic characteristics of the country on the first floor, visitors will be proceed to lean about the nine different climatic regions in the country on the second floor, explore cultural and traditional innovations on the third floor, and have a chance to visit a restaurant and terrace on the top level.
Milan based firms Simmetrico Network, Arassociati Architecture and AG&P landscape architecture studio will manage the design and construction for the pavilion. After the Milan Expo closes on October 31, 2015, the pavilion will be dismantled and transported to the Azerbaijan capital of Baku where it will be reassembled as a cultural center.
Read the following excerpts to take a journey through each space in the pavilion, as described in the designer's project description:
The visitor is accompanied to the center of Azerbaijan, a geographical, historical and cultural crossroads. By means of a large video display the visitor immediately comes into contact with the country’s most meaningful historical and natural panoramas. At ground level lighting installation reproduces the profile of Azerbaijan. Using LED video equipment it is possible to project onto this shape content linked to the geography and natural characteristics of the country. In the upper part of the sphere a light sculpture reproduces the silhouette of an eagle, recalling the shape of the country, resembling an eagle in flight from west to east, and emphasizes the country’s drive and tension when looking towards the future.
This biosphere is dedicated to biodiversity. The central installation is the reproduction of a large pomegranate tree –the pomegranate being the national fruit–, representing Azerbaijan’s abundance and variety. Diversity is understood in terms of multiformity, abundance and richness, from both natural and anthropological points of view. Indeed, within the sphere a bank of screens will display video portraits of Azerbaijani people. These “Portraits of Azerbaijan” show a cross section of the country, revealing the deep-seated energy that nourishes it, showing Azerbaijani men and women as an indispensable source of sustainable growth. In the upper part of the sphere, within the foliage of the large pomegranate tree, 3D viewers will allow the visitor to explore iconic symbols of the country inside the tree, thus coming into contact with the lifeblood of Azerbaijan.
An upturned tree stands as a metaphor for the relationship between innovation and tradition in Azerbaijan. The roots look upwards and take inspiration from the sky to feed a vision of the future and to give nourishment to the fruits of innovation. In the upper part of the biosphere the roots of the trees thus describe the strong traditions that sustain the country’s vision of the future. Among these roots are exhibited the Treasures of Azerbaijan, the works of traditional craftsmanship, history and culture. The lower part of the sphere, on the other hand, encloses the visitor in the foliage of the upturned tree. The spirit of renewal that today animates Azerbaijan is shown on three screens where the visitor can choose itineraries –air, water and land– through which to explore Baku, the capital and symbol par excellence of the country’s innovation.
The ground floor welcomes the visitor and draws him or her to the history, cultural heritage and natural beauty of the country. On the ground floor the visitor will also find a café that links the internal and external area of the pavilion, looking out onto a small square that provides access. In the café visitors can taste dishes prepared with raw materials sourced from natural and biodynamic farms in Azerbaijan. A juice bar, especially fitted out for the occasion, will offer the chance to taste famous Azeri juices, first and foremost traditional pomegranate juice.
The first installation that the visitor encounters on entering the pavilion is Mirroring Baku: this is a wooden construction, the size of a man or woman, with an interactive projection system connected to an installation located in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. The intention is to connect visitors to the pavilion with citizens of Baku in real time.
On the large wall that welcomes visitors on the ground floor is depicted an interactive musical staff made out of wood, recalling the importance of Azerbaijani music, which today constitutes UNESCO spiritual heritage. This staff accompanies the visitor throughout the pavilion: notes made of brass and tens of video screens form “the Symphony of Azerbaijan” together with a flow of significant images and information about the country. Azerbaijan is described by means of its key points: its geography, nature, unique and precious biodiversity, thousand year history, multifaceted culture and values. All this contributes towards placing an emphasis on the value of respecting one’s own tradition and other cultures and religions, and attention to cultural and natural heritage.
The first floor is studded with colorful flowerbeds, equipped with video screens and sound showers, to ensure an immersive experience in the colors and landscapes of Azerbaijan.This level is dedicated to the color of Azerbaijan, expressed through its many different landscapes, which make it one of the 25 hotspots of global biodiversity. In addition to panoramas, the screens show the growth of the nation through the highest quality projects in the fields of technology, agriculture and art.
The second floor is dedicated to the tastes of Azerbaijan: the world of Azerbaijani foods, their variety, their GMO-free production, recipes and healthy properties, and the strategies employed to conserve this heritage for the future. This floor is totally experience-based, with interactive tables and augmented reality installations. Tasting events will be organized on this floor during the evenings. One day of the week this floor will be completely set aside for children, with entertainment and installations dedicated to them.
Third Floor Terrace
The restaurant will be located on this floor: a terrace overlooking the EXPO, enhanced by a hanging garden, to which access can be gained directly from the ground floor by two elevators. The restaurant will offer fusion dishes created through a collaboration between Italian and Azerbaijani chefs. Themed evenings will be organized, featuring jazz and traditional Azerbaijani music, Azerbaijani performances and jam sessions with Italian artists. During the afternoon the restaurant will be transformed into a typical Azerbaijani Tea House. It will be possible to taste an excellent cup of tea accompanied by cakes and dried fruit, as is traditional.
LocationExpo 2015, Baranzate MI, Italy
Overall creative and project supervisingSimmetrico
Creative directorDaniele Zambelli
Structural and MEP engineerIdeas
Cladding: Facades and spheresPeople and Project
Light designVoltaire Design
Construction and project managementSimmetrico
Project managerRiccardo Cigolotti
Interiors & Exhibition design - Contents research and developmentSimmetrico
Interiors & Exhibition design - Contents managerMarta Marchesi
Interiors & Exhibition design - Cultural communicationsElena Croci
Interiors & Exhibition design - Set up project managerFrancesco Salvatore, Design Direct
Interiors & Exhibition design - Installation designFratelli&co.
Interiors & Exhibition design - GraphicsIriden srl
Interiors & Exhibition design - Technical developmentBlack Engineering
Interiors & Exhibition design - Video contentsBonsaininja – Dadomani
Building site set upEdil Lombarda
Exhibit set upInterfiere
LightningMarco Rocca Agency
Elevators & EscalatorsKone
Green set upAgripanda Srl
MEPBilfinger VM impianti
External flooringSirtech Srl
PhotographsCourtesy of Simmetrico Network