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30 Apr 2015

Milan Expo: Wolfgang Buttress' UK pavilion

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Construction of Wolfgang Buttress' UK Pavilion for Milan Expo 2015 has now been completed ready for the six-month event's opening date of 1 May. It is expected to draw 20m visitors.

The 2,000sq m cuboid lattice represents a giant beehive in a meadow and comprises 169,300 pieces of aluminium and steel, and 1000 LED lights. However, Buttress says the complex structure represents a simple concept. ­

"It's a very simple idea, almost as if you can imagine yourself the size of a bee," he says. "You take the path of the honey bee and end up in this virtual hive that'll pulsate with light and sound. It's a journey."

An 'orchard' pathway of rusted planters filled with grasses and wild flowers will lead visitors to the hive centrepiece, which uses audio-visual devices to connect to a live beehive 1,400km away in Nottingham. These will monitor the bees' activity and will buzz, pulsate and glow in accordance.

"The pavilion features the sound of the bees which is an amazing sound," says Buttress. "I imagined it would sound a bit annoying and a bit scary, but it is actually calm and meditative."

Buttress worked with engineer Tristan Simmonds, Manchester architecture practice BDP, and the hive was constructed and manufactured by York-based company Stage One. The firm also worked on Thomas Heatherwick's Olympic Torch and a number of the Serpentine pavilions.

Creative agency Squint Opera developed the immersive experience. 

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