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Oman Pavilion at Expo Milan 2015,

“Feeding the planet, energy for life”


Francesco Briguglia_Giuseppe Di Prima

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The Sultanate of Oman signed the participation contract of Expo Milano 2015, the next Universal Exposition, to be held in Milan, Italy, from May 1st to October 31st 2015, and which will focus on the theme “Feeding the planet, energy for life”.
For this purpose, Oman has reserved a space of 2,790 m2 and its pavilion will be built in a strategic position within the exhibition site, in front of one of the main entrances of the Expo venue. Now, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Sultanate of Oman invited specialized companies for competition to bid for the project of Designing, Constructing, Furnishing, Outfitting, Demolishing, Removing and Disposing the Materials of Sultanate of Oman Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015. The joint venture of companies and designers has been purposely assembled for tendering for the Oman Pavilion at Expo Milan 2015, with the aim of creating a unique offer in terms of skills, know how, knowledge and creativity. The lot dedicated to the Omani Pavilion is located in proximity to the secondary entrance which is easily reachable from the parking lot located on the east side of the Expo. The Omani Pavilion’s location has many advantageous aspects: the lot has the good fortune not to have neighbors lots on both sides and is adjoining with a green area with trees.

This fact gives an added value to the landscape, improving the quality of the environment that the visitors can experience inside the pavilion. Thanks to the location, the Omani Pavilion will be the first to be seen by visitors who enter from the east entrance, and it can also be seen from the Mediterranean Hilltop, one of the most awaited attractions of the Expo. The main access overlooking the Decumano is dedicated exclusively to the Omani pavilion thanks to the absence of neighbors, an element that gives importance and visibility. The structure of the project is the “narrative thread” of the whole conception: a cozy space immersed in a microclimate regulated by natural elements that are part of the exhibition experience (water, sun, green areas, textiles).

The structure is light and refined, efficient and well sized, being based on the height and setback standards given by the Milano EXPO regulations. A space-to-ceiling, covered with cloth and adjustable furniture protects the uncluttered space on two levels. A fluid functional program, which mixes exhibition, hospitality and staff facilities, includes both closed and air-conditioned exhibition spaces and relational spaces such as squares, open spaces, cafes, bookshops and other commercial activities. Every area of the pavilion is designed to allow a rich exchange between interior and exterior. The green fields of the EXPO, on the South East, are the real ideal boundaries of the pavilion. The design strategy takes advantage of the maximum permitted height of 17 m and creates a valuable, representative and monumental space. The interior spaces, exhibition and relational extend into each other with fine finishes , opaque and translucent, in a virtuous sequence that allows the visitor to be a part of the overall space . The bar service , merchandising, restaurant reservation , VIP room and prayer create islands for refreshment and relaxation where you can always enjoy the spatial qualities of the pavilion along with the exhibition content . The flooring of the ground floor is the conductive element of the space. It is inspired by the geometry and consists of traditional Omani items veined Carrara marble statuary .

The water affects the floor and generates ” falaji ” that draw the ” inner landscape ” . The project has a clear intent to give high symbolic value to the richness of the Omani landscape. The interior will offer a transposition on the physical plane , the materials used and the design. The exhibition rooms , with specific outfits on the contents of the Expo , complete the narrative of the interior landscape of the pavilion. All the intermediate open spaces between the halls and the terraces will be used as active exhibition spaces, and not just as passageways. Landscapes (created along with the activities and events timeline) are planned to perform as active exposures, in which the visitor can be involved. In this regard, it was thought a program of events and workshops that can show in an engaging way the Omani culture and local food production. The Pavilion is designed by taking into account the temporary nature of the EXPO. The main roof and support structure is made of steel. The selected steel profiles are standard, but extraorinarily and expertly paired and curved. (Mostly HEA, UPN, Tand L beams). Each structural element is designed to be assembled and disassembled, transported in standard containers with different means of transport.

The area dedicated to the exhibition stands under the shingle. Each structural element, as supporting partitions and floors, is made of steel and coated with insulating lightweight panels pre-assembled with thin layers of Carrara statuatory and venato marble for the opaque elements, and glass plates for structural and translucent elements. The cooling and ventilation systems are inspired by the traditional Arab culture where digitally controlled technological solutions interact with natural elements (such as air and water) in order to create the most comfortable indoor climate. The system is a review of what can be found throughout the Islamic architectural tradition that goes from the IX to the XII century, when water was used for bio- climatic functions and a water basin “worked” as a thermal mass. The mass of cold liquid “exchanged” with the hot air coming from the South wind making it fresher. The system of mobile textile sheets, at different levels, regulates the light during the seasonal passages that will accompany the exhibition period. They consist of a fabric, permeable to vapor and impermeable to water, that creates “smart” shadows by modulating the light and making the pavilion a safe location from direct summer daylight. The system draws an emotional pattern on the volumes made of statuary marble, which is reflected on the water cooling channels. Designing a brand for one of the pavilions of Milan Expo 2015 means to imagine a corporate identity that could create almost instantly a reference system recognizable and captivating, that last over a period of almost six months. Precisely for this reason, the brand should be presented in a captivating, fascinating shape – to be able in a short time to surprise and at the same time to become familiar to the observer.