This World Expo design aims to leave behind both neighborhood revitalization and the world’s largest urban solar farm

Over the years, REVITALIZATION has documented many approaches to the way cities host major exhibitions and sporting events, such as the Olympics. Some were brilliant; turning brownfields and other decrepit areas of the city into lasting revitalization. Others were disasters, leaving behind dead zones and structures of no ongoing use that were quickly demolished.

Now, here’s a proposal for a major event that would leave behind not just a revitalized neighborhood, but the world’s largest urban solar farm.

Expo 2030 Roma will take place in Tor Vergata, a vast area of the municipality of Rome that is home to the eponymous university – one of the leading academic hubs in Italy – as well as a densely inhabited residential district.

However, the neighborhood has gone through a phase of neglect in recent decades. The master plan aims to reverse that process through sustainable, long-term development.

Expo 2030 Roma’s commitment to neighborhood revitalization is exemplified by the repurposing of Le Vele, a massive sports complex designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Abandoned for 15 years, the structure is to become one of the flagship pavilions of Expo 2030 Roma, hosting public events and showcasing the transformation of Tor Vergata.

After the 2030 World Expo, all the event pavilions will be used for different functions, giving shape to a new innovation district in the Italian capital.

The project has been developed by international design and innovation firm CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati, along with architect Italo Rota and urbanist Richard Burdett, and several partners, including ARUP for sustainability, infrastructure, and costing, LAND for landscape design, and Systematica for mobility strategy.

The master plan’s vision of the Expo Solar Park ensures that the event will not only reinvigorate the neighborhood, but help decarbonize it. The solar farm in Rome covers an area of 150,000 square meters, making it the largest urban, publicly accessible solar farm in the world.

It is composed of hundreds of unique “energy trees” that open and close their panels throughout the day, harvesting energy while also offering visitors ample shade.

From above, this infrastructure gives the entire Expo site a signature mosaic look. This complex energy grid is complemented by the “Eco-system 0.0” pavilion, the tallest building of the Expo, which provides cooling through evaporation.

Italy, Rome, Acquedotto Claudio – A beautiful morning at Aqueduct Park

Expo 2030 Roma aims to break new ground for World’s Fairs and other large-scale events,” says Carlo Ratti, founding partner of CRA and director of the MIT Senseable City Lab. “Our master plan experiments with collective city-making processes, new energy-sharing strategies, and inclusive urban transformations that go well beyond the temporal and spatial confines of the event.

The master plan divides the Expo 2030 Roma site into three main areas – the City, the Boulevard, and the Park, in a west-to-east layout between the artificial world and the natural world that must exist in harmony if we are to be successful at combating climate change. The layout is characterized by a gradual transition from urban to natural as one moves from west to the east.

The City in the West functions as the Expo Village, and will become an extension of the University of Tor Vergata’s campus after the event. The Boulevard, the central pedestrian axis, is a pathway through all of the national pavilions.

Finally, the Park in the east is covered with lush vegetation and accentuated by thematic pavilions, including “Pale Blue Dot,” dedicated to disseminating knowledge about the natural world.

We conceived this project like a feasible utopia – one that aims to be a catalyst for new projects and ideas. The main driver behind this goal is to let natural ecosystems and technological inventions work in sync, just like human and natural energy would make each other more intense,” architect Italo Rota says. “This new approach to temporary events could become the foundation of a new model for urban development.

Next to Le Vele, the main entrance of the exhibition site serves as the primary access point with a set of new transportation and mobility connections. Among them, a long green corridor links Expo 2030 Roma to the adjacent archeological sites on the Appian Way and Rome’s other historical buildings and monuments.

CRA has extensive experience designing and building at World Expos. It designed the Future Food District for Expo 2015 Milano. Afterwards, it released the master plan for MIND-Milan Innovation District on the former Expo site, currently being implemented by the developer Lendlease.

The office then worked with Italo Rota, Matteo Gatto, and F&M Ingegneria to build the national Pavilion of Italy at Expo 2020 Dubai, which utilized recycled and reusable materials, from plastic to orange peels and coffee grounds, to create fully circular buildings. The Italian Pavilion was one of the most visited in Dubai (by 1.6 million people) and won Exhibitor Magazine’s Expo Award 2022, among other prizes.

Headed by Committee President Giampiero Massolo, Expo 2030 Roma was conceived under the theme “People and Territories, Together: Urban Regeneration, Inclusion and Innovation.”

The city of Rome submitted its proposal to the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) on September 7th, 2022. The host city will be decided based on a vote participated by the 170 BIE member states, which is expected to take place in November 2023.

All images courtesy of Carlo Ratti Associati.

See Carlo Ratti Associati website.

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