World Expo – the world’s biggest fare with the largest number of participating countries, visitors and delegations, takes place every five years.
“We tried to build a stage that will allow all actors to be heard,” said Matteo Gatto, the Design Director of the Expo. Indeed, the Expo is often envisaged as the playground of decorative architecture, featuring famous names like Daniel Libeskind and Norman Foster. As in every Expo, great attention is paid to the architecture of the countries’ pavilions. According to various publications, 13 billion US Dollars were invested in the fair (with a million Euros spent on covering up what was not ready for the opening).
The enormous sums invested in the Expo drew criticism about wasting funds, culminating on the opening day – symbolically held on May 1st – Labour Day. Demonstrations, sometimes violent, were held in the center of Milano, protesting against the billions spent, according to the protesters, on display constructions only to be dismantled in six months’ time. The contradiction between the Expo’s official motto “Feeding the Planet” and the fact that the Expo is funded by huge corporations like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s has also been voiced.
David Knafo, the Designer of the Israel Pavilion, also opposes what he calls “Figurative Architecture per-se; aesthetics for the sake of aesthetics”. Under the title “Fields of Tomorrow”, the Israel Pavilion designed by Knafo Klimor Architects, commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, assembled under the management of AVS Group, provides a powerful visual experience of a 70 metres long and 12 metres high architectural installation, “expressing the incredible journey of the Israeli agriculture towards the tomorrow of all humanity”.
The center element of the pavilion was the vertical field – an integral part of the pavilion, running along its entire length both visually and in terms of content. The agricultural field is created from modular tiles with various crops mounted on metal constructions elevated above ground. These tiles are holding a computerized drip irrigation system, designated for optimum crop cultivation and nurturing. The field will consist of the following crops: wheat, corn and rice.
According to Knafo, the concept of the pavilion is presenting its message even for those, who will not enter it. Thus, the challenge he faced was “to seek the aesthetics in Sustainable Architecture or Green Architecture rather than compromise on aesthetics for the sake aesthetics, which degrades the profession. We keep talking about green building but end up with a box that is not much different from the box we know.”
Knafo claims that architecture should evolve from the spoiled and passive phase into an active phase: “a building should not function like the Neanderthal’s cave and make do with only the shell that protects it. It can be much more efficient, and we have the technological means for that. It should be able to clean the air and water it pollutes, dispose of the garbage it produces; and it should also be able to produce food for those who live in it, as we show in the Expo. There is no reason for a farmer from the Azrael Valley to provide me with the tomato or cucumber for my salad”.