Shortlist announced for successor to Heatherwick’s Seed Cathedral

Barber Osgerby, Asif Khan and Paul Cocksedge are among those vying to create the UK pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo.

The Seed Cathedral by Thomas Heatherwick
The Seed Cathedral by Thomas Heatherwick

UKTI has announced eight anonymous shortlisted pavilion designs, all of which are competing to represent the UK at The Universal Expo event. The design will succeed Heatherwick Studio’s acclaimed Seed Pavilion, which was created for the last Expo in Shanghai in 2010.

The shortlist is made up of designs by AL_A, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris and Studio Myerscough, Asif Khan, Barber Osgerby, David Kohn Architects, Grant Associates, Paul Cocksedge Studio, and Wolfgang Buttress Studio.

The Milan Expo 2015 follows the Shanghai Expo 2010, where Heatherwick’s Seed Cathedral received eight million visitors and won the gold medal for pavilion design. The Milan event will run for six months between May and October 2015 and will address the theme Feeding the Planet: Energy for Life. 

UKTI has set the UK entrants the brief Grown in Britain: Shared Globally and asked them to give the design a global and interactive connection.

UKTI commissioner general and project director Hannah Corbett says, ‘We want to project an image of modern Britain as innovative, diverse and with a flair for partnership and creativity, but also show what Britain is doing to find solutions to the planet’s needs.

‘The design needs to have an emotional connection with the UK and be less an iconic building and more  an iconic experience for the physical visitor, as well as an experience that can be taken off-site, in a digital way.’

Corbett says the new brief picks up from Heatherwick’s 2010 design and gives a sense of continuity. ‘We’re moving from seeds in Shanghai to growth, by exploring ideas of food security, food chain, and economic growth.’

All shortlisted designs are shown here anonymously, in keeping with competition rules

Design by Team 1

Team 1

Design rationale: ‘There are 7.2 billion people living on this planet. Can you imagine trying to feed them all? At the Milan Expo 2015 the UK will reveal a structure housing every single person on earth. This will form a uniquely British perspective on the Expo theme. When we talk about “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”, we’re talking about people. More people = more food. That’s the challenge. From the Terracotta army to Ai Wei Wei’s Sunflower Seeds, our ability to emotionally connect with population through representation is profound. Remarkably a person remains recognisable at one hundredth of their real size. By scaling 7.2 billion people by one hundredth, we have discovered that they will fit onto our Expo plot in 300 vertical layers. That’s a building measuring 80m long, by 15m wide by 12m high containing the entire world’s population. Our pavilion will be the first to visualise the entire world’s population in three dimensions.’

Design by Team 2

Team 2

Design rationale: ‘Our Pavilion is the UK Food Machine and celebrates our island setting within two distinctive, linked environments, Sea and Land. Our design takes the form of a 3D infinity loop representing the future imperative for a joined-up food chain. Within this dynamic environment, the Pavilion communicates the connectedness of the UK food industry to weather, water and soil cycles through to specific future production technologies, processes and produce. Our working Seawater Greenhouse demonstrates UK innovation in meeting global food challenges while demonstrating the integrated systems required for a sustainable future. Animated by human and technological interplay, the designs capture the spirit of the UK as an advanced agricultural nation and celebrates the diversity of UK food and food culture.’

Design by Team 3

Team 3

Design rationale: ‘Our design for the UK pavilion dissolves the border between exterior and interior, creating an overall sense of organic fluidity rather than solid presence. A total of 1,296 re-usable telegraph poles create a ready-made timber forest: a calm and quiet space inviting exploration and a mystery that takes visitors on a journey to a concealed exhibition area within. Computer tablets installed with Augmented Reality software, accessible to all, transform the pavilion’s physical environment into a digital world of sound and colour, communicating the UK’s contribution to the Expo’s themes in a multifaceted and coherent style.’

Design by Team 4

Team 4

Design rationale: ‘Reflecting the theme “Grown in Britain, Shared Globally”, the Pavilion celebrates how British agriculture, technology and food have positively impacted the world: providing solutions to global problems, sustainably providing more with less, all from field to fork. The Pavilion will be a working model of this way of thinking: an ecological, self-sustaining system in itself. Live, real-world experiments allow visitors of all ages to engage, contribute and join the debate, creating entertaining experiences through technology and materials that bring the British success stories to life. Our team brings together a world-class group of architects, exhibition, industrial and digital designers, working alongside sustainability specialists, education and food experts in a highly collaborative creative approach.’

Design by Team 5

Team 5

Design rationale: ‘Our concept, “BE”, highlights the plight of the honeybee and ways in which new research and technology are helping to address challenges, including food security and biodiversity. Visitors meander through an orchard, discover a wildflower meadow and enter a virtual hive”, which pulsates, buzzes and glows according to signals from a real hive. Our proposal explores the life of the bee colony through an immersive sensory experience – a beautiful and profound encounter – leaving visitors with a lasting flavour of the British landscape. Encompassing the best of British food, music and fashion, “BE” engages and inspires visitors to think and act differently, expressing ecological interdependencies and the role of technology in cultivating a deeper understanding of our environment.’

Design by Team 6

Team 6

Design rationale: ‘#silentcurrency uses water as a metaphor to address the questions posed by the Expo. 80 per cent of the water we use is hidden in our food, a shocking statistic made visible by our design. Inside a mysterious, roofless, black container, visitors walk along paths cut through a vast volume of water representing their water footprint – an immersive and memorable experience designed to inspire to change. Corporate sponsorship contributes to the funding of six projects from six continents, each demonstrating a commitment to reducing water usage and showcased at the entrance. The leverage power of the Expo is exploited to find new support to end our profligate use of nature’s silent currency, making legacy as important as the exhibition itself.’

Design by Team 7

Team 7

Design rationale: ‘Strawberry Fields Forever tells the remarkable story of how British scientific and technological innovations are benefiting global food production and consumption. A monumental light pavilion comprising a state-of-the-art glasshouse held above a picturesque garden provides the context for a journey through the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the future of strawberry cultivation. isitors will encounter wild strawberry growing in the garden and then ascend to an edible strawberry cloud in the glasshouse. There follows a loop of galleries exhibiting contemporary and future production scenarios each involving British innovation: hydroponics, aeroponics, aquaponics and LED growing. Once the Expo has closed, the glasshouse will be relocated to the UK for use as a research facility.’

Team 8

Design by Team 8
Design by Team 8

Design rationale: ‘Thinkers+Growers+Makers=Shares will provide every visitor with inspiration about how they can help to meet the global food challenge. We have created an immersive, memorable and friendly visitor journey based around the four themes of Thinkers+Growers+Makers=Shares celebrating the people and ideas that are leading scientific research, agriculture, food production and food consumption. The pavilion is designed to be a melting pot of ideas — from the local to the global. Designed as a collection” of flexible built elements and experiences, visitors start in the Lab, then go through the Orchard and Hanging Gardens, into our giant Oast House and end in our Market Place that celebrates the UK’s unique culture of exchange and discussion in a place for sharing, eating and drinking.’


The competition is being run by strategic architectural consultancy Malcolm Reading Consultants.

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  • Simon Honywill November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I would support any project that aims to promote British market culture as a hub for growers, traders, buyers and people who love vibrant places to explore, taste and appreciate great food. Let’s challenge the modern convenience attitudes generated by the supermarket food factories and create a genuine attachment to the food that we eat through relationships and a sense of enjoyment rather than drudge

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