Czech pavilion wins architectural prize at Milan expo

Photo: CTK

The 2015 world expo closed its doors to the public on Saturday and as Milan celebrates the success of the undertaking, the Czech team has good reason to be proud. The Czech pavilion was awarded the bronze medal for architectural merit, as well as being voted the most visitor-friendly.

Photo: CTK
Standing near the entrance of the expo grounds surrounded by a pool of water, the Czech pavilion reflected the theme of this year’s expo – Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life. The water –which drew visitors like a magnet in the close to 40 degrees heat – represented one of the country’s scientific achievements – the process of water purification with the help of nanotechnology. The white functionalist-style pavilion made from modules got the thumbs up both from the public and the international jury. Yet the Czech EXPO commissioner Jiří František Potužník says the bronze medal was a big surprise.

“The bronze medal is more than we expected. We thought we might stand a chance for an award for the exposition Laboratory of Life, but to get this prize for the pavilion that is something that we really didn’t expect and, as far as I know, the architecture prize was awarded to us only twice before in the history of the Expo – in Brussels in 1958 and in Osaka in 1970, so even from the historical perspective it is a really big success.”

Jiří František Potužník,  photo: Alžběta Švarcová
What do you think is behind this success?

“The pure functionalist-like style for one thing, but very important, as the jury said was the almost zero-carbon footprint because this modular construction was not used in the past for pavilions at the Expo. So I guess the jury was not only happy with the architectural style, with the pure style, but especially with the new, innovative technologies used.”

The installations inside the pavilion aimed to present Czech scientific and technological achievements through modern art and give visitors a chance to interact with the exhibits on show, find out about the gene codes of plants discovered by Czech scientists, a unique technology for recycling used cooking oil into bioplastic and the efforts of Prague zoo for the preservation of threatened species. The most demanding and undoubtedly the most popular exhibit was The Laboratory of Life, combing Nature and hi-tech that recreated the experience of a Czech forest allowing visitors to zoom in until they reached a microscopic level. Luciano from Brazil told Czech Radio’s reporter this part of the exhibition – with live flora, the sounds and even the smell of the forest - was his personal favourite.

Photo: Dominika Bernáthová
“The experience with the silence of the Nature in the Laboratory of Life was really nice. ”

Among the other attractions on display was a copy of the Infant Jesus of Prague and a fragment of the 14 century Dalimil Chronicle -a unique medieval manuscript that relates to the history of Bohemia. And of course, the Czech pavilion did not fail to offer visitors the country’s famed Pilsner beer “on tap”. Although the country’s cuisine is less famous the Czech restaurant on the expo grounds La Baita del Cacciatore serving old Czech game recipes was voted one of the three best restaurants there – together with the French restaurant and Uruguayan pub. And visitors were ready to try some of the countries less well known specialties –Stephano from Milan sampled the “utopenec” - a marinated wurst popular in Czech pubs.

“Ok, so this is an utopenec? Utopenec….it’s very, very good. Very nice. Its very strange from the point of view of Italian cuisine. But I like it, yes.”

Photo: Dominika Bernáthová
Although Czechsgiving Day –an outdoor concert and food tasting event on the country’s public holiday on October 28th was spoilt by heavy rain, the organizers of the Czech exposition in Milan are more than happy with the impression made and the more than two million visitors who visited the Czech pavilon. The Expo 'torch' now passes to Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates, the first of which will organize a smaller-scale international exposition in Astana in 2017, while the latter will host a World Expo in Dubai in 2020.