Architect and partner of N.Y. based Biber Architects, James Biber is known for projects like the Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, New York City’s Needle & Button kioskat the Fashion Center Business Improvement District. Recently he has been hard at work designing the USA Pavilion of the World’s Fair Milan Expo 2015 conveying the engagement of the U.S. in food security and innovation. During the opening party of the James Beard American Restaurant, we had the opportunity to chat with Mr. Biber about his latest project and experiences in Milan.
Milan is no ordinary city when it comes to design. Is there any design element from Milan that you find particularly inspiring?
The Metro, street lights suspended from cables over the streets, anything by Castiglioni, Cimitero Monumentale, Torre Velasca, Depero designed bottles for Campari Soda, the 1940’s trams still in use, the Prada Foundation, and the fact that behind nearly every façade is a courtyard or garden or façade that is a real hidden gem.
Milan has a lot of interesting buildings, some new some old. Which one is your favorite?
A few are mentioned above, and it is trite to say it, but the Galleria remains one of the best pieces of urban design ever made. Now that I have spent time in the actual building that defines the Galleria space it is even more remarkable; this huge office building simply disappears leaving only the majestic void.
Much of your work has revolved around food. What is your favorite food here in Milan?
Aperitivo! This idea of having a meal (and drink) before having a meal is both insane and inspired. Aperitivo is exactly how I like to eat. Plus I love every restaurant that allows me to bring my dog with me!
Which three elements or details of the USA Pavilion are your personal favorite?
The Vertical Farm, the SmartGlass roof canopy and the Boardwalk. But don’t tell all the other details because they will get jealous.
If the city of Milan was to invite you to design something what would you like it to be?
The next life of the Expo site! The project should start with the declaration that every worthy building should be preserved and given a new life. Naturally that includes the USA Pavilion (and quite a few others). It may fly in the face of BIE regulations, but ideas, and Expos, must evolve.
Follow James Biber @biberarchitects or www.biber.co