Miralles Tagliabue EMBT, the Barcelona-based architecture studio, designed a dome for COPAGRI as part of the Expo Milano 2015. The dome is located in the south-east part of the Lake Arena – a large circular pool of water at the end of the Cardo, one of the main axes of the Expo Milano 2015 masterplan. It is surrounded by the European Union and Vanke Pavilions. 

COPAGRI is a confederation of agricultural producers that brings together hundreds of Italian farmers. During the Expo, they showcase their approach to the use of natural food products, all linked to the Italian tradition, through a market, a hall for cooking demonstrations and two spaces for pizza and ice cream tasting, made with 100% organic products. 

The design started from the observation of Italian landscapes, both natural and man-made. The dome is conceived as a variation of the vast surrounding public space: for this reason, the structures present clear permeability and full congruence with the setting. The open nature of the structure is materialised in a reduced use of mechanical systems, in favour of natural lighting and natural ventilation. 

The structure is composed of a big, three-dimensional grid that gradually transforms into woven branches, as it grows to the open top of the dome. The structural elements become architectural ones, designing both the internal and the external facades as tree branches. The empty spots of the grid enhance air and light permeability, while providing visual continuity between the outside and inside.

The double dome is a prefabricated structure made of spruce glulam, with zinc-coated steel joints. Numerical control machines cut the structural elements, and they can be easily assembled and dismantled in agreement with COPAGRI’s need of reuse them after the Expo, as expressed by the project competition requirements. The upper part of the domes, called “the hat”, hosts the required services both for the building itself and for the Lake Arena, consisting of lights, loudspeakers, antennas, and more.

An internal PVC sheet, suspended from the vertexes of the structure, covering the openings and avoiding water penetration, provides water resistance. The PVC seam follows the structural grid.

White translucent, pressurised PVC cushions cover the internal space in correspondence with the central oculus: those cushions are not linked to the internal PVC sheet, guaranteeing natural ventilation through a stack effect. Natural ventilation is indeed essential: in addition to the upper openings, all the perimeter of the dome is covered with a netted fabric, whose zigzag pattern follows the structural grid and ensures ventilation.


Project: COPAGRI Dome

Location: Milan, Italy

Architect: Miralles Tagliabue EMBT, Barcelona, Spain

Technical info: PVC sheet

Picture credits: Miralles Tagliabue EMBT

Website: www.expo2015.org