To celebrate and promote clean air quality on the occasion of Expo Milano 2015, the breathe.austria pavilion hides on its inside a 560 square-meter forest that provide a source of oxygen for up to 1,800 people. At breathe.austria the pavilion itself is the exhibition. It functions as a prototype to address possible future interaction between the natural environment and urban strategies by demonstrating the potential of hybrid systems that integrate nature AND technology. The central element is a dense Austrian forest brought together with technical elements in order to create a breathing microclimate. With this oxygen- and carbon-producing core, the pavilion becomes an “air generating station” – and the only building on the entire Expo site to withstand the hot Milanese summer without conventional air conditioning.
The pavilion was developed by the interdisciplinary project group team.breathe.austria under the direction of architect, landscape architect and university professor Klaus Loenhart.
The pavilion’s entire floor area is densely planted with 12 Austrian forest ecotypes, ranging from mosses and shrubs to towering, 12-metre trees. In a natural, water-rich forest, cooling occurs through evapotranspiration, meaning the evaporation of water from flora and fauna as well as from the soil and water surface. At breathe.austria, however, the evaporative cooling process is technically augmented. While the pavilion surface area is only 560 m2, thermodynamic high- pressure misting nozzles are used to activate the total evaporation surface of the pavilion vegetation, amounting to around 43,000 m2.
Despite the spatial constraints, breathe.austria succeeds in creating a unique climate zone within the pavilion: a pleasantly cool, fresh atmosphere that invites guests to linger. The effective interplay between nature and technology cools the interior space by 5 to 7° C and supplants conventional air conditioning. The pavilion produces 62.5 kg/h of oxygen – enough for 1,800 visitors. On its surface area of 560 m2, breathe.austria achieves the equivalent of a much larger, 3-hectare natural forest. The pavilion serves as a breathing “photosynthesis collector” that contributes to global oxygen production.