On March 24, representatives of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) completed their Enquiry Mission to examine Ukraine’s candidature to organize World Expo 2030 in Odesa. The project is to be based on the theme “Renaissance. Technology. Future.”

Kyiv Post interviewed Manuela Gatto, director of the London-based Zaha Hadid Architects Studio, along with Yevgheniya Pozigun, Ukrainian associate of the studio, on their work to help create the Masterplan for Odesa Expo 2030.

For what reasons was it important for your studio to collaborate with the organizers of Odesa Expo 2030?

Gatto: It’s actually not the first time that we’ve worked onmasterplans for candidate cities. We’ve done this a few times in the past, so we have a certain level of expertise. In the case of Odesa, we got involved in the city’s candidacy before the war started. Our previous projects in Ukraine included the metro line in Dnipro and masterplans in Kyiv.


After the war started, we discussed the situation internally and decided we wanted to go ahead. So, we contacted the Odesa team again to see whether their idea to proceed with its candidature was still going ahead as planned, which it was. So, we decided to collaborate with them and support them in their candidacy.

Your studio’s work on a city typically involves understanding the nature and particular characteristics of the place. How do those apply to Odesa and how, in your view, does it compare to other cities?

Pozigun: By coincidence, I am from Odesa and somehow I could convey my love for my city. I think its unique characteristics include its hospitality, openness and European nature. Its cultural vibe includes the famous Odesa Opera Theatre, which is second in Europe for its original acoustics, and the city has a very welcoming atmosphere. But the most important characteristic is the city’s proximity to the Black Sea, connecting Ukraine to surrounding countries.


It’s quite special to have such cosmopolitan cities on the waterline. Having an Expo that overlooks the water is aunique opportunity, and we have been given the freedom to configure the site, which is great. In the larger plot, we’ve been able to suggest the best positions along the waterfront of the lake.

What does the area chosen for the exhibition site, the so-called “irrigation fields” represent?

Gatto: It fulfils many requirements for the organizers of the Expo on the basis that its public land. Being owned by the state means it doesn’t have to be purchased from private owners. It’s also quite central to the city center, yet currently undeveloped. I think we would have objected if it were an area of particular importance interms of biodiversity. But it isn’t, because it has been intensively farmed land with minimal natural biodiversity and an ecosystem that is entirely artificial.


It’s an area that wants to be part of the city, but also a natural habitat, so we can ensure it will have much more biodiversity in the future than it currently has today.

Photos provided by Zaha Hadid Architects Studio (Copyright, JKLab Architects)

Architecture can be defined as art that combines space, function, values and thought. What are the values, ideas and use of spaces that form part of your masterplan for Odesa?

Gatto: I have to say that our principal driver is to create an Expo founded on sustainability. That doesn’t meanthat we’re criticizing how previous Expos have beendesigned, but we are keen to be innovative. Not just innovative in the way the pavilions are designed, but in the sense of both showcasing innovation and being innovative by design.

We thought this theme of sustainability would align perfectly with Ukraine’s aspirations in the context of reconstruction. So that means, for example, building smarter and better, as well as using new construction technologies now available to build economically, efficiently, and in a much more sustainable way.


The Odesa Expo is an excellent opportunity for Ukraine’s construction industry to become a world leader in sustainable development. It’s a very different type of scheme and concept for an Expo. Let’s say, it’s unique, and different from what was done before.

Many Expos failed the subsequent challenge of reusing their exhibition spaces. What is the future vision for spaces in Odesa?

Gatto: We understand that past Expos have been used for displaying amazing architecture. Obviously, we are architects and we love unique architecture, so we want to provide it. But we also want to ensure the Odesa Expo provides a strong legacy for the people of Ukraine post 2030.

While some of the infrastructure and architecture will remain as an essential new facility for Odesa, we have designed some of the pavilions so that they can be dismantled and re-used in other locations. This modular concept enables the pavilions to be easily taken apart, put on a barge and shipped elsewhere in Ukraine. From there they can become schools, nurseries or whatever else is needed by the people of Ukraine.

Architects are expected to look towards the future. How do you think the Expo could inspire future developments in Odesa?


Pozigun: We anticipate that the immediate site canserve as an eco-park for the city’s residents. The Odesa Expo will also leave the city with a permanent world-class exhibition and conference facility to host major trade fairs, conferences and events throughout the year, which so far does not exist.

As one of the world’s most important international ports, Odesa really needs a venue to host these large events and welcome business delegates, industry experts and government representatives from around the world.

Our designs also incorporate long-term plans for residential developments to meet the city’s future housing demands. Now that the city center of Odessa has become a UNESCO protected site, which is really amazing because it had been plagued by unregulated development in the past, we hope the Odesa Expo will increase protection of the city’s heritage and improve the standard of new buildings.

The Expo also involves upgrading the city’s public transportation system, to make better use of existing electric transportation, and create a plan for the future to improve connectivity throughout the city.


Bringing the Expo to Odesa will be an excellent opportunity to properly plan and organize the city’s future urban development to be most effective and beneficial for the city’s residents.


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