Milan is currently playing host to Expo 2015, ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life‘. The very first Universal Exhibition took place in 1851 in London at the forefront of industrial growth and was titled ‘The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations‘ or ‘The Great Exhibition‘ – less of a tongue twister! This famous World Fair brings together countries and nations from all over the world, to showcase and discuss Culture and Industry. The development of the World Fair can be divided into three principle eras, starting with the era of Industrialisation, moving on to the the era of Cultural Exchange and now the era of Nation Branding.
The Great Exhibition 1851, Crystal Palace, London
The 1851 exhibition which took place in Victorian London was at the heart of Industrialisation and the fairs during this era, focused heavily on showcasing new and exciting developments in Science and Technology from around the world. The era of Cultural Exchange no longer focused on technology, but instead was based on cultural themes and upon exchanges of innovative ideas to help us move towards a better future for our society. The era of Nation Branding provided countries with a platform to improve their national image, by creating impressive pavilions.
Milan Expo 2015, is a combination of each of these eras. With over 140 countries taking part, they are able to each show the best their country has to offer in terms of new technologies, whilst also trying to provide answers to the question of how can we ensure that everyone the world over, has access to healthy, safe and sufficient food, while respecting the planet itself. Not an easy question, but one which is so very important, as even today there are still people suffering the world over from famine and poverty.
With thousands of events organised over the six months of the Exhibition, they hope to create the opportunity to exchange ideas and solutions for a more sustainable planet. Some people have questioned whether an event sponsored by corporate giants such as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s can really be taken seriously when discussing sustainability and healthy living and there has been a lot of people against Expo for various reasons, including corruption (this is Italy after all). There were even riots after the opening night of the fair, which I wrote about here.
However, surely the important thing is that we are made to consider and discuss these issues and that events like this create funds and awareness for the problems they are hoping to solve? Yes, maybe the money spent on building the pavilions and all the events organised could have gone directly towards aid and helping people who are suffering, but then it can be argued that each Expo leaves a lasting legacy, not only for the country it is held in, but for the issue it addresses. ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life‘ – will hopefully make us think about our relationship with the planet, the land and the food it provides us with. Essentially, if we don’t take care of our planet, we won’t have food or energy for the future and the Planet and its inhabitants will suffer.
When I started writing this post, I didn’t really intend for it to have such a serious tone to it, but I think it is an important theme and I had read quite a lot about this years Expo as well as its history. I think it is a great event and has amazing potential to influence many people. You can see that by the number of people who have visited already!
Unfortunately, I have only been once so far and that was on an evening ticket, which is so convenient and only 5 Euro. However I plan to visit in September and October a few more times and hopefully for a full day too!
If you are visiting prepare to walk, queue for individual pavilions and be utterly exhausted by the end of it! My friend and I had completely underestimated the sheer size of the place and for me this was one of the most exciting and impressive aspects. There is a main ‘walkway’ running through the middle with pavilions either side for each country. They vary greatly in size, some quite simple and understated, others elaborate and distinctive. There are, of course, as the theme is centred around food, endless opportunities to try all sorts of cuisine from all around the world. There are musical acts, fabulous costumes and I found the smells, sights and sounds so enticing!
The pavilion for Germany
The Chinese pavilion – which I haven’t yet been in, but admired from the outside!
We visited relatively few of the pavilions, which is why I must go back again, but we did make it to Korea, England, Germany, Qatar, Morocco and America. Each pavilion features information about things such as their farming methods, food production, culinary traditions and sustainability and technology within their country. Some provide lots of really interesting information, such as Qatar and Morocco, while others seemed a little vague, for example (and I feel bad saying this) England. The concept of England’s pavilion was lovely, you enter through a zig-zag meadow and see an amazing structure built to represent a bee hive, but there wasn’t much information and what information there was, wasn’t represented in the most interesting way.
Looking up at the dome of the English pavilion
We had some great food, sushi from the Korean pavilion and vegetable curry from Morocco, plus there was free water throughout the site (both still and sparkling) which was a great bonus.
Mock spice market stall outside the Qatar pavilion
Table of traditional food inside the Qatar pavilion
By far, however, my absolute favourite thing, was the Tree of Life! If you go, you must stay to see the light show in the evening, as it was stunning! I stood mesmerized watching the tree light up perfectly in time to the soundtrack, water sprouting up peacefully…it was as if the tree and the water were dancing to the music! It really was quite magical, I was completely fascinated by it – I will be making sure I see the show again next time I go!
Have you been to visit? What did you think/enjoy/dislike? What is your opinion about the event? I would love to know what you have to say…or if you have some advice for what to see next time!
Outside the Moroccan pavilion