Dezeen Magazine

Robot tractors to farm crops on sloping roof of Milan expo pavilion

Milan Expo 2015: robotic tractors will create patterns across a field of crops on the roof of this pavilion that Italian architect Carlo Ratti has designed for the World Expo 2015 in Milan.

Working alongside engineering firm RecchiEngineering, Carlo Ratti Associati has designed the pavilion for agricultural brand New Holland, which plans to present an exhibition dedicated to sustainable farming at the international exhibition opening next spring.

Earth Screening by Carlo Ratti

Two self-driving tractors will be positioned on the gently sloping roof of the building, intended to demonstrate the growing role that robotics plays in agriculture.

"The idea of Earth Screening is not just about self-driving tractors that can draw patterns on the roof of the building," said Ratti. "It is about how we can sense and respond to the conditions of the soil to a degree that was impossible before. This points to a future where an agricultural field could be considered as a giant base for 'agricultural printing', with major advantages foreseen in terms of plant biodiversity and resource preservation."

Earth Screening by Carlo Ratti

Responding to the exhibition theme "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life", the zero-emissions tractors will be powered entirely by electricity generated onsite.

"In the same way as self-driving cars are expected to revolutionise urban mobility, advanced robotic technologies are reshaping agriculture, with a new wave of innovations helping us to better respond to local terrain conditions," added the architect.

Earth Screening by Carlo Ratti
Diagrammatic section

The interior spaces of the pavilion will present an exhibition of other agricultural equipment using large digital displays.

"While the roof uses real moving tractors, inside the pavilion we tried to reproduce the working conditions of other key pieces of agricultural equipment - from tractors to combine harvesters - in a physical and digital way," said Walter Nicolino, an architect at Carlo Ratti Associati.

The pavilion will remain in place for the duration of the expo, which takes place between May and October, before being dismantled and reconstructed in a new location.