Photographing the world at Milan Expo 2015

We would like to thank Johan Offermans & Karl Overholt for writing this blog post and for these amazing panoramas created at the Milan Expo 2015.


World’s fairs go as far back as 1851. They are global events with an objective to allow countries to share innovation, foster co-operation and educate the public. Large world expos welcome tens of millions of visitors from around the world and allow each of the participating countries to build special pavilions for the expo that can transform the landscape of a city. Some notable structures that have been built as part of past world expos include the Eiffel tower in Paris, France, the Atomium in Brussels, Belgium, project Habitat 67 and the biosphere in Montreal, Canada, the Space Needle in Seattle, US, and  the Unisphere in New York City, US.

Since the year 2000, world expos take place every five years and typically last six months. In between world expos, a smaller international specialized expo takes place that lasts up to three months.

So when I found out that the 2015 world’s fair, or Expo 2015, takes place in Milan, Italy, I really wanted to experience this event. Milan is only a 3.5 hour train ride away from where I live and I had never visited a world expo previously.  I obtained accredited photographer status for the event in order to take and publish 360 panoramas.

As it was my first visit to an Expo, I did not know what to expect or how the 2015 World Expo compares to previous Expos. There are 140 participating countries at Expo Milan 2015, each country having a different, and often creative, approach to the pavilions and interpretation of this year’s theme “Feeding the planet, Energy for Life”. The different pavilions are built close together, in an exhibition area of 1.1 million square meters.

This panorama, taken from the top of the US pavilion, gives you an idea of the overall experience: You are surrounded by different pavilions from different countries and there is a main, wide, covered passage going through the Expo between many of the pavilions.


Most of the pavilions are clearly temporary in nature. For example, the Belgian pavilion is made out of plywood, glass and solar panels.  Even so, it provided a fascinating experience through the information being offered but also the play of light that was created by the sun hitting the solar panels.


Some other pavilions are clearly intended to stay at the site for longer and transform the area.  Most notably, the large white building in this panorama is the Italian pavilion.  It is a large structure that is fascinating from both the inside as the outside.  On this photo, you can also see the “tree of life”, a contemporary interactive installation made for the Expo that is not only a reference point at the Expo but is also a place to relax by the water as you can see many people do in this panorama. The tree also comes alive during the day and the evening due to special effects and lighting.


And here is the Italian pavilion from the inside:


Some pavilions have the visitor do something active within the pavilion. A great example of this is the Brazilian pavilion where visitors can walk / climb on a net above plants. It was a very popular activity while we were there and makes the pavilion very memorable. This panorama was taken from underneath the net and shows the many people above enjoying the activity:


For me, the most unique pavilion, however, was the UK pavilion, which was build in the form of a cube / sphere which you can enter.  It is a very unique structure to see and visit.  This panorama shows the inside of the pavilion and I encourage you to also explore the other nearby panoramas that show the same structure from below and from the garden:


From the outside, the pavilion looks more like a cube / hive as you can see in this picture taken at sunset in the garden:


The theme for the Expo is feeding the planet. The different countries provided information about their current food production, but also about the future of food production. For example, this futuristic view of food production was in the cellar of the Belgian pavilion providing real-life examples of aquaponics, algae, insect farming, etc:


Many of the pavilions discussed their own food production and offered some of the local food for sale. Argentina is a great example of doing so in a colorful way:


The Expo runs from 1st May 2015 until 31st of October 2015. I thought it was a worthwhile experience, but would recommend two days as there is much to see and the lines in some of the pavilions can be long.  With the Expo expecting over 20 million visitors, it may become significantly more crowded as the word about the Expo spreads.

For our full set of panoramas from Expo 2015 have a look at our Expo 2015 set:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s