UK Pavilion, Milan Expo

Following the Government’s decision for the UK to participate in Milan Expo 2015, the UK Trade and Investment Department (UKTI) commissioned a £6 million “stand out” pavilion to showcase the best of British design, technology and construction.

The winning design by Nottingham artist Wolfgang Buttress, announced by Prince Harry in Rome, was based on the Expo’s theme of ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’ and featured a virtual beehive made of fine steel lattice, with LEDs which glowed and pulsated according to signals from a real beehive in the UK.

Buttress’ intriguing design to showcase the crucial role of pollination in the global ecosystem, was turned into reality by Manchester based architects BDP and main contractor Stage One, the company behind the unforgettable 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.

As well as a fruit orchard and natural wildflower meadow leading to the 14m3 hive, the UK Pavilion also included conference and VIP suite, offices and kitchen areas. Senior’s Hybrid Series 1 tilt turn windows were specified throughout, with black powder coated aluminium externally for durability and low maintenance and spruce engineered timber internally for a natural look and feel.

BDP chose Hybrid windows to give the building a sustainable, softer feel. It was also important for the fenestration supplier to be a UK based manufacturer to showcase UK products and systems. Mike Davenport Senior Architectural Technician at BDP said: “We considered a number of UK systems and Senior’s Hybrid window system was by far the best option, offering local UK manufacture and being the only one with the quality we needed. In fact the quality is equivalent to that of the Scandinavian systems we have used in the past and we will definitely use Senior’s Hybrid systems again in the future.”

The Hybrid frames were fabricated in Huddersfield by Hepworth Framework and double glazed units with solar control glass were supplied by Senior’s dedicated glazed unit manufacturing facility in Scarborough.

The final windows were assembled in Tockwith by Stage One before being shipped to Italy. This local manufacturing reduced transport miles adding to the sustainability credentials of the project. Milan Expo 2015 ran from 1st May – 31st October and welcomed millions of visitors from around the globe. The aim was to highlight one of the most pressing challenges of our time – how to feed and sustain an expected rise in the world’s population to 9 billion by 2050.

The UK Pavilion was a huge attraction for its 3.3 million visitors, and helped the UKTI to showcase UK capabilities across the world and leadership in international development through an international programme and ‘Grown in Britain’ campaign.


The UK Pavilion and its designers won a host of awards including:

  • The Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) Gold Award for Architecture and Landscape
  • International jury prize for the best design and relevance to the Expo theme by the Italian Association of Architects and other Italian National Construction and Landscape bodies
  • 2015 World Interiors News Award
  • 2015 FX Award design award for best lighting
  • 2015 architecture lighting award
  • 2015 Manchester architects award for BDP
  • 2015 Darc award

When Milan Expo ended, the UK Pavilion was dismantled, but The Hive, the centrepiece of the gold medal winning UK Pavilion, will take up its new home within Kew Gardens from June 2016. Soaring 17 metres in the air, The Hive will provide a show stopping new attraction for visitors to Kew gardens. With a wildflower meadow leading the way to The Hive, it will be a truly immersive, multi-sensory experience and will take visitors on a journey, exploring the vital role of bees and other pollinators in feeding the planet.






BDP Manchester

Main Contractor:

Stage One


Hepworth Framework

Structural Engineer:

Simmonds Studio

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