Competition winner Klaus K. Loenhart about “breathe.austria”
With breathe Austria is making an incisive contribution to the theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” at the Expo Milan 2015. breathe highlights the No.1 source of nourishment and one of the most important resources for an international audience: AIR. Architecture, Nature, Culture and Research are brought together to offer the visitor a personal experience.
The outstanding quality of Austria’s air is not just one of the country’s most important assets and extremely high in an international comparison; air, the climate and the atmosphere are shared by the entire world. They are sources of nourishment, information media, energy producers and a resource. The breathe contribution of the Austrian pavilion places the focus firmly on the country’s natural and technological expertise and at the same time tackles future issues relating to the use of this key resource. An Austrian forest planted on the Expo site makes a statement that can be experienced with all the senses in the former industrial district to the north west of Milan.
“Every breath connects me with the whole world”, “without air it’s impossible to survive even five minutes”, “each year a person breathes in thousands of cubic metres of air and breathes out hundreds of kilogrammes of carbon dioxide”, “the pavilion produces enough oxygen for 1,800 people per hour”, “the air from the pavilion will now stay in my lungs for two years. Then, at the very latest, I’ll have to go to Austria” (excerpts from the concept).
The Austrian pavilion in Milan combines the structure and the environment into an integrated contribution. By planting a forest on an area of 560 m² breathe creates a multi-faceted network of relationships between mankind, the environment and the climate.
The pavilion forms a frame around a generous vegetation zone and acts as a vessel for the performance of the indoor landscape. With technical support (but without air-conditioning) the framed form actively generates the micro-climatic conditions of an Austrian forest. Where light enters the built structure, there is growth and ecological metabolism.
The vegetation of the miniature forest has a foliar surface or evaporation area of approx. 43,200 m² and produces 62.5 kg fresh oxygen per hour – enough for 1,800 people – a “photo-synthesis collector”, which contributes to the global production of oxygen. Inside the pavilion this effect is technically supported by evaporative cooling – but without air-conditioning systems. This replicates an atmosphere that feels like a thick forest in Austria with comparatively natural means using the cooling effect of the evapo-transpiration of the plants. The result that is achieved differs significantly on a number of sensory levels from the air and climate in Milan and can thus actually be felt by visitors.
The planting of trees over the entire exhibition area is an exemplary contribution to action in an urban setting, as the integrated use of a landscape can supply urban areas with sufficient oxygen and cooling air, which in turn provides an opportunity to draw attention to Austria’s policy of sustainable and multi-functional forest management or conversely to the decline in the global tree population.
breathe is a natural cycle where the emphasis is upon ecological performance: Designed as a process and thought lab of causal relationships, scientific expertise, urban visions, ecological research, ecosophy and the artistic production of knowledge come together to be translated into site-specific sensory experiences.
The forest is both the formal vessel for the leitmotif “Air and Climate in the 21st century” and a space for substantive interventions and experiments in artistic and scientific work. Stimulated by their senses, visitors to the Austrian pavilion will undertake a journey of discovery that presents air as an essential source of nourishment. Space. Experience and the exhibition all flow into one another. During the six month exhibition period, air will be made tangible as a commons that can be experienced with the senses, and a networking room will be offered that generates and communicates knowledge.