What is Expo Milan about?   What are the dates it will be held?   What are its venues?   Would it be worth attending even if I’m not from Italy?

Expo 2015 is the next scheduled Universal Exposition after Expo 2012, and will be hosted by Milan, Italy, between May 1st and October 31st 2015. This will be the second time Milan hosts the exposition, the first being the Milan International of 1906. On November 23, 2010, the event was officially announced by the International Exhibitions Bureau (BIE). The BIE General Assembly in Paris decided in favor of the Milanese candidature on March 31, 2008. Expo 2015 will be held under the theme Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.

The theme chosen for the 2015 Milan Universal Exposition is Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life. This embraces technology, innovation, culture, traditions and creativity and how they relate to food and diet. Expo 2015 will further develop themes introduced in earlier Expos (e.g., water at Expo 2008 in Zaragoza) in the light of new global scenarios and emerging issues, with a principal focus on the right to healthy, secure and sufficient food for all the world’s inhabitants.

The concerns of many futurologists about the quality of food in the years to come are compounded by forecasts of increasing uncertainties regarding the quantities of food that will be available globally. These concerns, expressed early on in studies by MIT for the Club of Rome, were largely ignored at a time when it appeared that increases in resource availability would outstrip increases in consumption. However, the rapid depletion of agricultural surpluses has clearly manifested the urgency of the problem of how to Feed the Planet and prevent hunger.

There are seven proposed sub-themes: (1) Science for Food Safety, Security and Quality; (2) Innovation in the Agro Food Supply Chain; (3) Technology for Agriculture and Biodiversity; (4) Dietary Education; (5) Solidarity and Cooperation on Food; (6) Food for Better Lifestyles; and (7) Food in the World’s Cultures and Ethnic Groups.

Expo Milano 2015 is a global event characterized by its nature of uniting many different voices, basing its success on the involvement of all the various players taking part. As defined by the rules of the BIE, Participants in the Universal Exposition are identified as Official or Non-Official: Official Participants are all Countries (145) and International Organizations (3) who accept the invitation sent by the Government of the Country hosting the Exposition. Non-Official Participants may be a group of representatives, institutional and otherwise, whose participation is authorized directly by the Organizer of every single Exposition.

Given the importance of its theme, the Italian Government decided in 2011 to officially invite all member states of the United Nations and to open the doors of Expo Milano 2015 also to Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Companies as key stakeholders in the global debate on the challenges related to nutrition and food. Working together, but with different methods and targets, depending on their role, they will be called upon to interpret and make a real contribution to the theme of Expo 2015 Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life. The aim is to bring to life a unique experience for visitors, as protagonists, building awareness and participation in the right to food that is healthy, safe and sufficient; to environmental, social and economic sustainability of the food chain, and to the conservation of taste and food culture.

A Universal Exposition has the responsibility to leave a cultural, social, scientific and technological heritage, and Expo Milano 2015 will build this legacy, above all, thanks to its Participants, who represent the heart and soul of the event.

Expo Milano 2015 brings with it countries from all over the world who have been invited to interpret the theme Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life. Food, a crucial and daily question for the entire world population, capable of uniting people of different cultures and religions, brings with it profound issues.

The theme of Expo 2015 is of paramount importance for the development of all of mankind, so the participation of International Organizations is of particular importance for the success of the Exhibition as a whole. Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life means food security, access to food, sustainability: all the central themes in the work and mission of some of the most important organizations in Italy and in the world.

The area that will be occupied by the Expo 2015 site is located about 15 km (about 10 miles) northwest of Milan in the municipalities of Rho and Pero, and covers an area of 1.1 km2 (0.42 sq. mi). It is adjacent to the new Fiera Milano fairgrounds, designed by Massimiliano Fuksas, whose project may be considered the cornerstone of the urban redevelopment of the entire area. The zone had long been an industrial area before being converted to logistical and municipal services and agriculture. The fairgrounds and the Expo site will be connected by a pedestrian bridge adjacent to the Rho-Pero high-speed rail station.

The chosen area is oblong in shape with an overall length of nearly 3 km (1.9 mi), immediately suggesting the idea of a main axis conceived as a boulevard along which the pavilions would be located. The design of pools and waterways in and around the Expo area has been an element of primary importance in the three phases.

The initial plan was characterized by the following principal elements: (1) 50% of the area occupied by pavilions, 35% of the area dedicated to external spaces around each pavilion, and the remaining 15% comprised a green perimeter ring around the site; (2) Piazza Italia and Piazza Expo located at either end of the main boulevard. The former dominated by the Italy pavilion (approx. 7,000 square meters) and flanked by a second square dubbed Piazza delle Regioni; (3) A large artificial lake surrounded by the 20 pavilions representing the Italian regions; (4) An amphitheater (12,000 seats, 9,000 square metres) and an Auditorium (6,000 seats, 6,000 square meters); (5) Country pavilions in three different sizes depending on the financial resources of each participating country; and (6) Three collective pavilions dedicated to three geographical areas: Asia, Africa and Latin America/Caribbean.

Plans also called for the following thematic pavilions: (1) What the world eats: at the base of the Expo tower and in the pedestrian bridge connecting the Rho-Pero fairgrounds to the Expo site; (2) Science and conscience; (3) Tales of land, air and water; (4) The food spiral; (5) The right to eat well (6) In the realm of the senses, in Piazza Italia; (7) Equilibrium; and (8) The art of food.

The main idea was to trace out within the area two distinct lines of demarcation, two avenues, a main avenue and a secondary avenue representing the ancient Roman layout comprising a cardo and a decumanus. The initial idea of a “classical” site composed of avenues and pavilions was replaced by the idea of a “light” Expo composed of exhibition areas arranged transversally with respect to the main boulevard. The exhibition areas are completely identical for each country and recreate the typical “food cycle” of each nation, from production to consumption. The centre of the avenue is occupied by a table in front of the country pavilions and extending for the entire length of the site. Here visitors would be able to sample the foods produced in the pavilion of each country. The entire area would be covered by large tent-like structures to convey the idea of a global marketplace.

A second idea was to build large bioclimatic greenhouses on the site to reproduce the earth’s principal environment types or biomes. These would function both as thematic pavilions and for the cultivation and production of basic foodstuffs used in the individual country pavilions. Each country would also be able to have a dedicated greenhouse within its specific exhibition area. In this second version of the Expo site, water remained an important element but was shifted toward the exterior, no longer arranged in canals flowing through the pavilions, but as a large navigable canal surrounding the Expo site. A large lake was also included in the design.

As part of the reciprocity protocol with Expo 2010 of Shanghi, on December 8, 2008, China was the first country to formalize its participation in Expo Milan 2015. The United States government would not provide funding for a pavilion, but “Friends of the U.S. Pavilion Milano 2015” was created for this purpose. In partnership with The James Beard Foundation and the International Culinary Center, and in association with the American Chamber of Commerce in Italy, the Friends group is working for a vibrant U.S. presence at the Milan Expo. Its goal is to use state-of-the-art digital media and other novel approaches to showcase American leadership and innovation in global food security, agriculture, and cuisine and lay the seeds for enhanced trade and investment between the United States and Italy in this sector, so important to the cultural heritage of both nations.

In preparation for the upcoming event, the City of Milan has signed numerous collaboration agreements with other cities in Italy and Europe in order to coordinate initiatives united by the common denominator of Expo 2015. These agreements focus principally on tourism, culture and infrastructure. Agreements have also been signed with various countries around the world for the development of specific projects associated with food and education.

Kathy Kiefer


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