Czech Pavilion EXPO 2015

Czech Pavilion EXPO 2015

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EXPO 2015 S.p.a
Simon Oberhofer

Czech Pavilion at EXPO 2015 in Milan


Through the end of October, the Czech Republic, along with over 150 other counties of the world, is participating in the Expo 2015 in the northern Italian metropolis of Milan. Expo, far beyond being a venue to showcase progress and the latest discoveries in science and technology, also aims to contribute to solving current global problems and to strengthen international cooperation. The motto of the Milan Expo is: “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”, referring to the need for balanced securing of quality sources of food and potable water for everyone on the planet. The Czech Republic chose water as the central theme of its exposition, since in the European Water Charter of 1968 it is stated that “water is indispensable to all forms of life” and its preservation “is the joint responsibility of states and all users”.

The architectural concept of the Czech national pavilion was designed by young, Brno-based architects Ondrej Chybik and Michal Kristof, founders of CHYBIK+KRISTOF ARCHITECTS & URBAN DESIGNERS. In their design, they successfully capitalized on their experience from reputable studios abroad, as well as on their previous collaboration with KOMA Modular, for which they designed and implemented an original, modular cafeteria in Vizovice between 2013 and 2014.

Their joint project won the public tender thanks to its progressive (and slightly provocative) feature of a modular construction, enabling convenient transportation of the pavilion back to the Czech Republic and its reuse. The then twenty-seven-year-old architects’ equally suggestive idea was to interconnect the Czech pavilion with an attractive front space and a pool designed to refresh and relax. In the middle of a hot Milan summer, the sparkling clear water surface acts as a magnet for visitors, while symbolically reflects Czech primacy in environmentally friendly water purification using nanotechnology.

The pavilion itself is in the form of simple block structure of three floors, with the steel framework of its modular construction visible on its primary facade. At the level of the first and second floors, it is covered with a secondary facade made of white aluminum slats. “We tried to create a formally simple house and put the architecturally expressive elements in the background, so as to emphasize the art inside,” explains Ondrej Chybik, in response as to why, together with Michal Kristof, they gave precedence to a timeless, minimalistic design over a flashier concept. Their pavilion evokes Czech architecture of the 1930s, which today still sets the tone for many Czech cities. It is no coincidence that the 1930s were a golden era of public pools and swimming facilities in this country, which were often designed by the foremost modernist architects.

In their design, CHYBIK+KRISTOF AU place great emphasis on architectural representation of public space and the smooth transition between the exterior and interior of the pavilion. The large front space with a swimming pool organically leads into the ground floor restaurant, which is connected with the first floor by a grand, statuesque stairway. From the exhibition space on the second floor, stairs then lead to the pavilion roof garden, offering visitors a view of the surrounding area of the Milan exhibition grounds.

The main advantage of the pavilion, however, remains its modular design. It not only reflects the values of this year's Expo, such as respect for the environment and technological innovativeness, but also guarantees a “second life” after the conclusion of the exhibition. The architects originally considered adapting the pavilion into a preschool, café or pool, but in the end it was decided that the pavilion will return to Vizovice, where it will become a part of the future KOMA Center for Modular Architecture. Use of containers in the context of the World Expo is not completely unique, but the Czech pavilion is an exception in the sense that a completely modular design was used by choice, not only as a cost-effective solution. "Our Milan pavilion is evidence that the container can create high-quality and representative architecture," says Ondrej Chybik of CHYBIK+KRISTOF AU, whose cooperation with KOMA Modular paves the way for a more positive perception of modular architecture, both by professionals and the wider public.

Czech Pavilion: Theme "Laboratory of Life"

EXPO 2015 S.p.a as Contractors

The Concept

The Czech Republic’s contribution to the theme of the Universal Exposition in Milan, which is: “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”, will be keyed on its long-standing agricultural tradition of food-production, as well as its ground-breaking research into biochemistry and nano-technology with special reference to respect for the environment, human and animal health, not to mention food safety. The Czech Republic’s pavilion makes special reference to Water, which is not altogether surprising, since the country features three important rivers, the Elbe, Oder, and the Danube, as well as a number of thermal springs, such as Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad) and Marianske Lazne (Marienbad). The country also boasts many impressive swimming pools constructed in the 1930s. Last but not least, the Czech Republic is a world leader in water-purification technology.

Re-stating the Water theme, and destined to become the most eye-catching aspect of the Czech pavilion, is the splendid pool that links it to the Decumano, the main avenue where the national pavilions are located. This impressive open space also includes a bar, where visitors can sample a Pilsner Urquell, the world-renowned Czech beer.

Set inside the pool and welcoming visitors to the pavilion is a sculpture by Lukas Rittstein. The rear-half a shiny automobile, the front-half a bird with spectacular plumage, the work represents the co-existence of technology and nature, and conveys a stark reminder: as it hurtles courageously towards the future, humankind will always be a passenger, with nature in the driving seat. Outwardly, an eye-catching interplay of volumes, the Czech pavilion provides the setting for two major exhibitions. The Laboratory of Silence recreates a mixed Czech forest, with real trees, complemented by robotic projectors that interact with the visitors, beaming detailed images of the trees in question onto the walls of the exhibition hall.

Meanwhile, in the Laboratory of Life, nature comes under the microscope. The exhibition examines the genetic codes of a number of agricultural plants that were unraveled by Czech scientists. On the walls are large-scale artistic renderings of the codes. A multimedia presentation illustrates cells and biological processes, while a large sculpture of an animal recalls Czech success in the field of veterinarian medicine. Completing the picture, a low-energy use research lab.

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