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Kazakhstan Pavilion Client: J&G Consultoria de Ferias S.L. Design: Facts and Fiction GmbH Fabrication: Gtp2 Architekten
PHOTOs: Martin Misere
Expo 2015 Awards: Editor's Choice
The ninth largest country in the world, Kazakhstan is home to ancient steppes where nomads dwell and astronauts land. Those stark contrasts are given life in its magnificent pavilion, where guests are introduced to the Central Asian country in an enchanting pre-show presentation. Poised on a platform, a sand painter twirls delicate grains into images representative of Kazakhstan's history – emperors, stallions, and mountains – on a backlit glass panel that then appear on a large projection screen.
That homage to history and ingenuity sets the tone for tactile exhibits to come. In one, apple-shaped frames containing monitors hanging from an apple tree tell the story of the fruit's Kazakh origins. Meanwhile, visitors are treated to a sample of kumis, a surprisingly sour Kazakh beverage made by fermenting horse milk.
WHAT THE JUDGES SAID
"If surprise and delight are measures of success, then this pavilion is a successful amalgamation of memorable experiences and picture-perfect vignettes."
In a nearby aquarium, sturgeon (representing the country's caviar production) are so playful that they can be petted like Golden Retrievers. The fish are just a few feet away from a video game where the object is to use drones to hunt down locusts. After locating the winged predators, visitors gather around an interactive floor relief of the Aral Sea, which, when they twist the black handrail encircling it, displays devastating changes in the sea's water levels.
"The juxtaposition of Kazakhstan's past and future was mirrored by an artfully restrained use of high-tech implements alongside low-tech, tactile components," said EXHIBITOR magazine editor Travis Stanton. "If surprise and delight are measures of success, then this pavilion is a successful amalgamation of memorable experiences and picture-perfect vignettes."
Swathed in 19 steel and fabric structures shaped like gigantic dried corn leaves, the Mexico Pavilion evokes the glory of its history and the promise of its future. After receiving and scanning a bar code sticker that allows them to interact with other culinary and cultural exhibits, guests first encounter ancient Mexico through a massive magnolia tree encircled by swirling water, which, along with an adjacent garden, conjure images of chinampas, the artificial islands on which the Aztecs raised crops. Pre-Conquest Mexico is also summoned through the forbidding 13th-century stone statue of Macuilxochitl, a god of fertility and corn that rests close to modernist sculptures of carved obsidian. Capping an experience rich in exhibits – including ones on stunning talvara pottery and the surreal Monarch butterfly migration – is a rooftop garden abundant with chili, amaranth, chía, and other foods that shaped Mexican culture.
France Pavilion Client: FranceAgriMer Design: XTU Architects; Studio Adeline Rispal; Agence Laverne Paysagistes Fabrication: Cooperativa Muratori & Cementisti (CMC di Ravenna)
Evoking the elegant covered food halls of Paris, such as Hailes de Baltard, the France Pavilion is built of glulam French spruce, whose timbers form an enclosure that mimics the rolling hills and valleys of the Gallic landscape. Attendees entering the stunning edifice stroll past a series of cultivated fields in which nearly 60 different plant species sprout, only to encounter a charming scene of bakers kneading dough for the classic French baguette. Further on inside, tree-like pillars support the undulating walls, out of which aromatic herbs grow and perfume the air. Ingeniously, most of the products on display – from cookware to wines to grains – are placed high on the ceiling and walls, so that traffic flows through, unencumbered by typical hip-high and space-swallowing displays of products. Thanks to an air-flow system and the thermal draft created by the central skylight, the space, part cathedral and part cave, is naturally ventilated and temperate on even the most torrid Milanese summer days.