After attending the World Retail Congress in Rome last week, I then did a short trip up to the Milan Expo.
The Expo is spectacular with a real festive feel to it. Even though I was there on a weekday, families were out in droves with long queues just to get inside and then further lines at each pavilion. The theme for the 2015 Expo ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’ was visible in all the pavilions, with each country also taking it as an opportunity to showcase their culture, art, heritage and innovation.
I was particularly interested to see the UK Pavillion, hailed for its innovative design by artist Wolfgang Buttress, shaped as a giant bee-hive in the middle of a wildflower meadow. The theme for the UK pavilion is ‘Grown in Britain and Northern Ireland’, inspired by the role of the bee in the global ecosystem especially for pollinating crops.
When you enter the pavilion and walk through a narrow pathway surrounded by grass, a feeling of calm and serenity envelops you as if you’re walking through a meadow with (recorded) sounds of birds, bees and crickets all around you. It’s quite remarkable given the throngs of tourists crowding right outside the pavilion.
The other pavilion which was a must-see on my list was the UAE pavilion. The first thing that struck you even before you went inside were the friendly young volunteers from the UAE greeting the visitors and guiding them through the pavilion. Emirati men and women, clad in qandooras and abayas, never let their smiles fade as thousands of tourists constantly stood for photographs with them.
The pavilion had some of the longest queues at the Expo which was a testament to global interest in the UAE. While the exterior was stark in its simplicity – shaped like sand dunes – inside a world of innovative technology awaited you. Once the Expo ends, the UAE structure will all be dismantled and brought home to Abu Dhabi to be set up again at Masdar City.
The pavilion also shared with visitors Dubai’s plans for hosting the Expo in 2020. As Dubai gears to host the Expo, it’s going to be fascinating how countries, companies, artists and designers will respond to the theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Shaping the Future’. At the BCB we are working with UKTI in the UAE, to help UK companies on how they can get involved in this exciting opportunity.