“Global Sofreh, Iranian Culture.” A carpet laden, overflowing with every delight, whether for the eyes or for the palate. This striking image inspired the concept for the Iran Pavilion, which took its cue from the traditional sofreh, traditional fabric where the courses are set during important banquets and where, metaphorically, the riches of the country were on display for visitors.
A cool, green paradise
The entrance to the pavilion coincided with the entrance to the large gardens where plants grown in Iran – grapevines, barberries, pomegranates, date palms – have been arranged, before you climb to the area dedicated to medicinal plants like valerian and herbal ones like sage and rosemary. As the visit continued, one notices a pleasant freshness. The air began to cool due to a large spiral structure in the center of the room that used a special system to provide a nice sensation of chilling, lowering the ambient temperature.
Here and there, among the numerous plants set out in areas representing the country’s seven climate zones, some of the most famous foods were displayed: pistachios (Iran produces 46 percent of the pistachios in the world), caviar (47 percent of global production is, in fact, Iranian), barberries (an acidic berry used often in cooking), saffron (97 percent of the planet’s harvest of this spice comes from Iran), dates (the second largest global producer is Iran), pomegranates (30 percent of the world’s harvest of these fruits are in Iran), basmati rice, almonds and walnuts. Other foods emblematic of Iranian cuisine are saffron-flavoured sugar crystals used to sweeten tea, hazelnuts, figs and typical sweets: delicious little pastries with dried fruits, rosewater, honey and saffron.
Faith, a fundamental aspect of Iranian culture
The floor of the pavilion was blanketed in glowing blue LEDs to represent the water that flows copiously in the famous Persian gardens, while the ceiling of the structure was covered with mirrors that show exciting plays of light, especially in the evening. On a table amongst the displays reigned a copy of the Koran positioned by a finely decorated mirror with two candles on the sides. This last item symbolizes Zoroastrianism, which held that light is a way to connect with God. It is no coincidence that, inside the pavilion, two important religious symbols were displayed. This underlined the importance that the spiritual dimension has for the Iranian people who, for millennia, have observed not just Islam but other religions. Many Armenian Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Shiite Muslims and Sunni minorities live in that country.
Discovering the cultural roots of ancient Persia
The right-hand side wall of the pavilion was covered with screens that project shots of characteristic Iranian countryside to celebrate its biodiversity. On the left, busts of ancient poets, doctors and philosophers were prominent for their historical distinction for their wisdom and their arts: Sadi Shirazi, Omar Khayyam, mathematician Nasir al Bin al Tusi, who invented trigonometry, and Avicenna, the world-renowned philosopher.
On the ground level, the Iran Pavilion hosted a restaurant that offered visitors a chance to taste some wonderful local dishes. Near to the restaurant there was a space with various stands where visitors could buy products made in Iran. Along the wall hung conceptual works created by a group of Iranian graphic artists who distinguished themselves in a contest centered on the theme for Expo Milano 2015.