Andrea Maffei Architects

Andrea Maffei Architects

Milan, IT


Competition for the Italian Pavilion EXPO 2015

The competition called for the design of five buildings aligned along the Cardo that characterizes the entire EXPO 2015 master plan. There are four two-story linear buildings that contain various exhibition spaces, market and restaurant - and the Italian Pavilion itself. The Italian Pavilion had to be developed in a square area of 57.5 meters per side with a maximum height of 25 meters.

We developed our design for the Italian Pavilion according to the following concepts.

Decomposition and Overlaying

The theme of the Italian Pavilion hid the great difficulty of synthesizing the richness and complexity of the culture of a country in a single building. Because of this, it seemed interesting for us to use the concept of the decomposition of the building in a series of architectural themes.

At the same time it was interesting to propose the architecture as an overlay of the same themes together to resume the complexity of layers of urban complex and buildings of our cities.

Just like our nation is divided into an infinite number of topics and cultures, the Pavilion itself could be conceived as something that instead of relying on a unique morphology, which could be broken down into a series of sub-themes that represent the architectural richness of Italian various cultures. The overlap of these architectural themes symbolizes the complexity of a nation and the historical process of overlapping cultures and different ideas that characterizes the wealth of our country. This overlap could be implemented in different architectural forms with different colors and materials, as described below.

The Tree

The Tree is the metaphor: a steel structure which, while providing a protected outdoor gathering space, holds the suspended volumes containing the program: exhibition spaces, conference rooms and other facilities.

The Lower Square (Piazza Bassa)

The square is one of the themes that characterize all Italian cities and the way of life that joins Italian citizens. We thought it was interesting to go beyond the concept of a building intended as a simple closed building and open it up to turn it into a "square" in which all visitors could be together. The square can accommodate all sorts of events, ranging from concerts to conferences, exhibitions, and fairs. The square does not have a single point of entry, but can be accessed all around without any pre-established hierarchies.

References to Leonardo Da Vinci

We decided to focus on two basic geometric forms: the square and the circle. This was due to our desire to use the famous drawing by Leonardo Da Vinci, the "Vitruvian Man", where man is at the center of the universe and creator of reality. The drawing depicts a man inscribed in the square and the circle as the two absolute geometric forms that define reality.

The suspended palace

We designed all exhibition spaces and conference rooms as volumes hanging from the large roof. This was possible by making a large portal structural composed of three "V" steel elements supporting a grid of trusses at the top floor. The Italian Pavilion is for the first time, floating above the ground, leaving the piazza below completely free for many different uses.

The exhibition spaces

The exhibition spaces are accommodated in one large open space: a large circular room with a regular grid of thin round columns. It is a very efficient space and can adapt to any type of show. The ceiling will be equipped with guides to power spotlights; these can be easily removed in order to ensure maximum flexibility of installation of any exhibition.

The conference rooms

Three conference rooms are included in the building, each one accommodating respectively 250, 150 and 50 people. Given the importance of the conference rooms for the Pavilion, we decided to highlight their presence by putting the three rooms in clear evidence: there are three parallelepipeds sitting above the circular exhibition space, and surrounded by panoramic terraces all around. Alongside the conference is a cafe with a panoramic terrace facing the Lower Square (Piazza Bassa). A reference to Baroque architecture is especially clear here, the curvilinear forms recalling in an almost ironic manner, the architectural history of the Bel Paese.

The Roof Square

We provided the building with a square on the roof, directly accessible from the street level by means of an escalator. The Roof Square is characterized by a stone paving with LED lights and by an Italian garden along the perimeter.


A long pool in the Lower Square is a metaphor for Italian rivers, its spurts reminding of the charm of Italian squares, gardens and public places.

Italian Pavillion EXPO 2015 competition

project    Italian Pavillion EXPO 2015

location    Milan, Italy

program   exhibition pavilion

client    EXPO 2015 S.p.A.

competition time  dec. 2012 – feb. 2013

project  Andrea Maffei

design team Takeshi Miura, Alessandra De Stefani, Stefano Bergagna, Takatoshi Oki, Roberto Balduzzi / Andrea Maffei Architects s.r.l. Milano

structure  Alberto Ferrari, Steve Alemanno / Ramboll Ltd.

facade  Nicoletta Bacchin / Ramboll Ltd.

mep plants  Giancarlo Tanzi / Techproject srl

firefighting  Maria Elena Perrotta, Giancarlo Tanzi / Techproject srl

cost control  Techproject srl

security coordination  Techproject srl

construction program  Techproject srl

net area  10,146 smq.
gross area  12,758 smq.

maximum height  25 m

materials  concrete, steel, glass, wood

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Status: Unbuilt
Location: Milano, IT
Additional Credits: Takeshi Miura, Alessandra De Stefani, Stefano Bergagna, Takatoshi Oki, Roberto Balduzzi / Andrea Maffei Architects s.r.l. Milano