A café powered by the sun: Lavazza presents Floating Solar Moka at Expo 2020 Dubai

Italian coffee manufacturing company Lavazza along with design and innovation office CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati and Italo Rota Building Office unveiled a new café at Expo Dubai 2020, designed for Lavazza. The project uses the sun’s energy to make coffee. The most evident feature of the café is a gigantic Solar Moka, a coffee pot powered directly by the sun. The café’s focus on the concept of circularity in design is embodied in its location at the entrance to the Italian Pavilion, which was designed by CRA and Italo Rota, with matteogatto & associati and F&M Ingegneria.


Solar Moka is a 2.5-meter-tall reproduction of one of the icons of Italian design, the Carmencita Moka pot, designed by Italian architect Marco Zanuso for Lavazza in 1979. Recognizable throughout the fair as it peeks out from the pavilion’s porous multimedia facade made up of nautical rope, it is a solar-powered sculpture that tracks the sun’s energy and captures this energy with mirrors to heat water used to prepare coffee at a nearby facility.

Located in a pavilion at Expo, Solar Moka is part of the larger “Solar Coffee Garden”, which showcases the coffee production process and highlights the critical importance of a transparent supply chain. 


The entrance to the cafè is marked by “potted” coffee plants hung five meters above the ground, allowing visitors to observe the origins of the coffee bean, which is central to the production process. These plants are grown for the entire duration of Expo Milano 2015.

The main counter of the café is created from a mixture of coffee and ground-up coffee beans. The former, mixed with resin, covers all vertical surfaces while the latter are used for the countertop.

“We explored several dimensions of sustainability in the design,” says MIT Professor Carlo Ratti, a partner in the firm CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati.


“One was using solar energy to make coffee. Another was making every step of coffee production and consumption transparent to people passing by, whether on foot or in cars. Finally, all the waste from coffee production coffee grounds, used coffee filters and other materials was reused as part of the green interior landscape and as décor for the tables that patrons sit at.”


Italo Rota, founder of Italo Rota Building Office says “The Italian tradition of coffee and design come together with the principles of the circular economy in this project, while playing with the convergence between the natural and the artificial worlds, an important topic for our work in the future.”

Picture credits: Carlo Ratti Associati

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