A "food theme park" that opened outside Bologna earlier this month has become the site of an unusual construction project: a house made entirely of chocolate.
Fico Eataly Wold, opened by Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni on 15 November, claims the title of the world largest food-based attraction. The aim of the 100,000 sq m site is to showcase Italian gastronomy.
The chocolate house was designed by Carlo Ratti, founder of his own practice and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It uses 30,000 pralines to build a pavilion for Italian chocolatier, Venchi.
The external walls of the pavilion cover an 8m-long, 3.5m-high surface. The pralines are arranged in a mosaic that makes them look like a giant chocolate tablet.
Ratti says the use of chocolate reduces waste. "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," he commented. "In this project we thought: what if the pavilion could be dismantled by simply eating it?"
There were also some unusual problems with the construction process, owing to some parts being eaten before they could be assembled.
Inside the pavilion, visitors are invited to sit in a booth and try different Venchi pralines.
Using artificial intelligence and facial recognition technologies, each person’s reactions the taste of the chocolate are inferred from the micro-facial movements.
After the individual tasting experience, visitors walk into the "chocolate portraits" room where they can watch a digital rendering of themselves enjoying chocolate.
Visitors can also take part in a hands-on demo of the manufacturing process, and create a fully customised chocolate tablet.
The Fico Eataly attraction was built over four years, at a cost of €120m, by refurbishing a disused wholesale market hall known as the Agri-Food Centre of Bologna.
The company behind it is Fabbrica Italiana Contadina, or Italian Farming Factory, which is a collaboration between Virginio Merola, the mayor of Bologna, and Oscar Farinetti, the founder of the Eataly food brand.
Image: What’s your taste in architecture? (Daniele Iodice)