Retail Pavilions at Expo 2015

Coin Group, an Italian retail conglomerate, was given lots N2 and N3 within the Expo 2015 area near Milan. Each lot was to receive a pavilion for one of the group brands: OVS and Excelsior. We decided to combine the two lots to increase the building surface to 522 square meters (14.5*36m). The project of the stores Excelsior and OVS consists of two semi-identical “L” rotated by 180° and placed next to each other, almost interlocking. Since the built project had to be delivered within three months from its conception, the design strategy was dictated by ease and speed of construction. Designing two almost identical steel structures allowed us to optimize the building process within a very tight timeframe.

The two buildings generate a small enclosed system: they do not look at the surroundings as the openings only face the inner space. The height of each building vary with a continuous gradient from 7 to 5 meters along the whole external façade, giving a dynamic and unusual geometry to the volumes. Between the buildings a narrow open corridor is filled with bamboo plants: this provides both lighting and filtering, a “calle” of light, green and glass which can only be seen from inside the system.

Façades

The façades are cladded with three-dimensional metal plates which interlocks as a puzzle: the OVS store is covered by brushed aluminum sheets, while the Excelsior store is covered by etched corten. The different materials, the different material finishes and the three-dimensional design makes the façade react and change continuously to the daylight.

The project’s timeframe demanded a cladding that was quick to produce and install, independently from weather conditions. In addition, we wanted to give the two buildings a striking look within the physical project’s constraints: we were asked to maximize the interior retail space, therefore leaving the façade cladding’s depth to a shallow 5 cm which did not allow for very tridimensional solutions. Therefore we came up with a mid-relief design: a tridimensional puzzle system composed of four-piece modules. The four pieces overlap hiding the fixing elements. The solution gives the façade a look that is ever-changing throughout the day and according to the beholder’s position: the relief looks more accentuated if the beholder looks from left to right. While each metal panel is handcrafted and unique, the façade looks quite monolithic from far which makes it difficult to guess the cladding material, hence it is a surprise for the observer to see and appreciate the remarkable metal work from close.

We wanted the façades to be original not just for their cladding system, but also for their materials since the two buildings had to look similar and yet quite different, each showing the colors and identity of the two brands, OVS and Excelsior Milano. We found all our answers working together with De Castelli S.r.l. and their amazing handcrafted metals. They have devised systems to treat metals in many different ways with uncanny results: the aluminum, used for the OVS façade, is brushed by hand while the corten steel, used for the Excelsior façade, is etched with acid which gives an harmonious effect of colors that goes from dark brown to green to gold. Each of these processes gives unique results, meaning that each panel has a different singular look and combines the best of pre-fabrication processes with handcrafting techniques.

Exterior space

The exterior space between the pavilions and the Decumanus, called “campiello” (small square) OVS, is partially planted with flowers and partially paved. We designed the outdoor furniture to allow visitors to rest as well as the stores to self-promote. The project through its compositional elements, the “calle” and the “campiello” aims to recall the origins and roots of the Coin Group within Venice. The inner nature of an Expo, transitoriness and reuse, has led us to design a structure that uses only dry construction systems and that can be completely recycled. By dismantling, moving and rebuilding the structures we will provide a nursery school for the Coin Group.

Developed as part of a small team at Zito+Pedron Architects.

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