The treatment and protection of the wood used in the French Pavilion at the 2015 Milan Universal Exhibition

The French pavilion at the 2015 Milan universal exhibition is an ambitious and modern structure, built from over 1450 pieces of glue-laminated timber. To achieve this, 1,500m3 of timber (mainly spruce and larch) were processed by SIMONIN, a French company and used. The durability brought by the Axil wood protection products to the timber used for the French pavilion contributed to the use of resinous species entirely sourced from Franche-Comté.

Indeed, the protective timber treatment was carried out by dipping, spraying or brushing depending on the application equipment and the size of the timbers. The AXIL concentrated micro-emulsion solution which was applied to the timber made it suitable for use in class 3.1 according to the EN 335-1, -2 and -3 standards, with a resistance to wood boring insects (termites, furniture beetle, longhorn beetles, lyctus) and decay fungi (dry rot or white rot).

Following the protective treatment, an AXIL finishing product was applied to the timber to protect it from handling marks, bad weather during construction and also to water-proof the building’s timber. In addition, to protect the glue-laminated timber both on the work site and in the finished structure, SIMONIN applied a clear film generating product from the AXIL line for glue-laminated timber to protect the natural colour of the wood while giving it a beautiful satin look. This water-based formula is highly valued by professionals for its ease of use and quick drying (1 hour).

In fact, this large and spectacular structure of over 2,000 m2 designed by the XTU Architects firm is the representation of an overturned landscape, full of curves and slopes, illustrating the French landscape.

The flexibility, large span and creativity of shapes and volumes that can be achieved using glue-laminated timber structures  made the choice obvious when it came to fulfil the designers’ most sinuous requirements.
On the French pavilion, the technical challenge was:

–     the design of a 35 m x 55 m x 12 m timber building, without any discontinuity in its curves and without any visible assembly,

–     the manufacture and construction in less than one year,

–     and the pavilion’s expected durability allowing it to be reused after the universal exhibition (to be taken down and rebuilt elsewhere).

SIMONIN, a specialist in large scale timber construction projects, was an obvious candidate that went on to be selected following the tender. Its design and production know-how, combined with its new digital machining centre providing a complex timber production service while allowing greater reactivity, and its RESIX® technology used for invisible assembly were all factors and strengths that contributed to convincing the project’s decision-makers.