Market, barn and wine cellar, cathedral and hive… the French Pavilion in Expo Milano 2015 was all these things, thanks to its imaginative structure, evoking first and foremost the Halles, the traditional covered markets spread all over France. The Pavilion (official name “Canopée”) was made entirely of French wood – spruce on the inside, larch on the outside – used to create complex geometries full of varying curves and counter-curves which exalted the capacity of wood to achieve unusual lines. Immediately on entering, the visitor was greeted by an outdoor farm-type garden, one of the largest in the entire Universal Exposition, articulated in 16 different compartments according to plant-type (details available on a dedicated app).
The garden was not only a matter of pleasurable aesthetic effect, it was intended to illustrate agricultural challenges and represented France’s different crops and geographical areas. Developed in close coordination with the Pavilion’s architectonic concept, the garden was designed to complement its impact, while the visitor, crossing the garden, encountered a quite different landscape according to the seasons which, from May to October, became expressions of Spring, Summer and Autumn.
An upside-down hill with ‘vaults of abundance’
At this point, you entered the hexagonally-shaped covered building. In this huge wood-structured “market”, you were immersed in an upside-down world: the beams sustaining the “inhabited roof” created a highly unusual and varied vaulted effect where – unlike a traditional covered market where the products were displayed on stalls on the ground – the ‘produce’ was spectacularly suspended from the ceiling, in the ‘vaults of abundance’. Each vault displayed different elements, some real some digital… regional gastronomic specialties, scientific and biotechnology research, agro-ecology projects, new farming technology, genetic innovations, life chemistry, and flora. Thanks to an air-flow system and the thermal draft created by the central skylight, this “market-landscape” was naturally ventilated and cooled, making it a sustainable building.
Food and beverages… vive la différence!
France’s legendary gastronomic culture made it easy to offer visitors a stunning range of possibilities. The Café des Chefs, for example, proposed the creative verve of numerous prestigious chefs, all winners of the Bocuse d’Or, who took it in turns to prepare special versions of typical regional dishes.
The Brasserie’s menu offered the great classics of French cuisine, with dishes that vary from month to month according to seasonal markets, regions and creative caprice.
The bakery continuously turned out fresh baguettes… a special baguette, created especially for Expo Milano 2015: the French Pavilion Baguette was a “limited edition”, using all the classic ingredients but with an original “grigne”. Finally, there was also the option of the Peugeot Food Truck, featuring demonstrations and tastings expressing the best of contemporary urban global food.