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Architecture & Design, Art & Public Space, Commissions, Digital Media, Exhibitions & Events, Installation

Carlo Ratti Associati: Chocolate Pavilion for Venchi, FICO Eataly World, Bologna. November 2017

Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) have designed an edible pavilion made of pralines, for chocolate producer Venchi for the FICO Eataly World, Bologna. The external walls of the pavilion are made up of more than 30 thousand pralines of different varieties, spread over a 3-metre-long, 6-metre-high surface. Each chocolate can be picked by visitors, making the vertical element of the pavilion entirely edible. From afar, the pralines are arranged in a mosaic that makes them look like a giant chocolate tablet. Inside the pavilion, CRA has also developed a number of chocolate-related “experiences”, including the use of artificial intelligence to measure one’s reactions and feelings when eating sweets.


Inside the pavilion explores the effects of chocolate on humans where visitors can engage in a digitally-augmented tasting experience. Participants are invited to sit inside a booth and try different Venchi pralines. Using Artificial Intelligence and facial recognition technologies developed in collaboration with Milan-based interaction design studio DotDotDot, each person’s reactions to different types of chocolate are inferred form the micro-movements of lips, eyebrows, pupils, nostrils and forehead.

After the individual tasting experience, visitors walk into the ‘Chocolate Portraits’ room where previous recordings of visitors’ emotions when eating chocolate are projected. Individual reactions are analysed and shown in bright colours, almost like a scientific dissection of archetypical human reaction to food. Dozens of faces appear on the wall in a portrait gallery, with images responding to the pleasures of chocolate.

After exiting the Chocolate Portraits room, visitors enter a laboratory where they can observe and partake into the making of Venchi’s products. There, they can get a hands-on demo of the manufacturing process, but also create a customized chocolate tablet, tailored to their personal taste based on the data about individual preferences gathered in the previous area.

“The interaction design project for Venchi is one of our first applications of Affective Computing in the field of exhibition design. We trained an algorithm based on Artificial Intelligence to trace, analyse and categorize facial expressions, an example of creative application of one of the most interesting and compelling technology”.  Alessandro Masserdotti, of Dotdotdot

Carlo Ratti, founding partner of CRA and director of the Senseable City Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: commented: “I never liked the fact that exhibitions require the use of large amounts of construction materials that then end up in landfills after just a few months. In this project we thought: what if the pavilion could be dismantled by simply eating it? We also liked the reference to the timeless fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel.

The new Venchi store will be unveiled on 15 November 2017, during the opening of FICO Eataly World.

CRA will also unveil another project at the Bolognese theme park, called ‘Hortus’, a pavilion that leverages new farming technologies to turn supermarket visitors into potential farmers, allowing them to engage with hydroponic cultivation and grow their own vegetables on site.

Carlo Ratti Associati is a design and innovation office, based in Turin, Italy, with branches in New York, and London. The work of the practice focuses on innovation in the built environment. Recent projects include the Future Food District thematic area at Milan World Expo 2015; the redesign of the Agnelli Foundation HQ in Turin; the master plan for the requalification of the Patrick Henry military village for IBA Heidelberg; the Pankhasari retreat in India’s Darjeeling; and the concept for a human-powered ‘Navigating Gym’ in Paris.

Photographs by Daniele Iodice


About jeh

Jeremy Hunt is Director of the AAJ Press (Art & Architecture Journal / Press) – a writer and consultant on art and public space


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