The Architecture of the USA Pavilion at Expo MilanoMitchell Davis
April 14, 2014
How does architecture represent a country? Can a single building embody diverse American values? Is it possible to move 1,200 people an hour through a space not much wider than the Beard House and still give them something to think about? Can such a limited space be outfitted with enough equipment and storage to feed 7 million people top-quality food that represents the breadth and diversity of American cuisine? Is it possible to accomplish all of this and more in a semi-permanent structure that meets the highest standards of sustainability?
These are the sorts of questions that face James Biber, the architect designing the USA Pavilion at the next world’s fair, Expo Milano 2015. The theme of Expo Milano is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” and every one of the 147 participating countries is creating an experience for Expo visitors that contributes in some way to the global dialogue about the future of our food system. The James Beard Foundation, along with the International Culinary Center, is leading the team behind the American pavilion for the U.S. Department of State. Our theme is “American Food 2.0,” and we will present a new face of American food, underscoring issues of diversity, sustainability, innovation, and entrepreneurship, in addition to the global issues of food security, access, and waste.
As the architect of the pavilion, Biber has to work within a strict set of guidelines from the directors of the Expo and articulate the diplomatic mission of the State Department. His design must be versatile and flexible enough to hold the diverse exhibits, events, and food offerings that will take place during the six months of the Expo (May through October 2015). Of course, it also must fall within a strict budget. Unique to the USA’s participation, all of the money for the American pavilion must be raised from the private sector. Biber’s design includes a large vertical farm, a roof deck, a food truck court and a large, central hall meant to evoke the scale and openness of an American barn.
Biber’s wide range of experience will no doubt serve him well in this project. He has designed several restaurants, including the iconic Gotham Bar & Grill. His museum work includes the Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee. His public spaces include projects as diverse as the Glass House visitors center and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute at the U.S. Senate. Biber also created the design for JBF LTD, our popular pop-up restaurant in 2011.
The USA Pavilion is a unique and daunting problem and Biber’s design is a unique and engaging solution. Watch Biber and JBF EVP Mitchell Davis, Chief Creative Officer of the USA Pavilion discuss the project at The New School, part of our Dining & Design Series: