Giant Carlo Ratti solar-powered Lavazza coffee pot

Tuesday 7th December, 2021 - Bruce Sterling

*Hahahaha! It’s the greatest. Wish I had one of my own!


CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati and Italo Rota unveil a new café designed for Lavazza at Expo Dubai 2020. Located within the Italian Pavilion, the project features a 2.5-meter-tall Moka pot powered by solar energy that heats up water to make coffee – as part of a wider design inspired by the principles of circular economy.

More information and images are available upon request by writing to

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

The giant Solar Moka, which hangs from the ceiling, is surrounded by an array of mirrors that track the sun’s energy. The solar rays are funneled towards the pot, where they heat the water that is needed to prepare the coffee (watch timelapses here). The Solar Moka is a 2.5-meter-tall (8-foot-tall) reproduction of one of the icons of Italian design, the Carmencita Moka pot, designed by Italian architect Marco Zanuso for Lavazza in 1979. It is visible across the fair as it peeks out from the pavilion’s porous multimedia facade made up of nautical rope.

The Solar Moka is part of a larger “Solar Coffee Garden”, showcasing the coffee production process and highlighting the critical importance of a transparent supply chain. At the entrance to the café, a series of potted coffee plants are suspended five meters (16 feet) above the ground, allowing visitors to observe the origins of the coffee bean that is central to the coffee production process. The plants are grown on-site for the entire duration of the Expo.

Finally, the café’s main counter is made with resulting coffee and coffee beans. The former, mixed with resin, cover all vertical surfaces while the latter are used for the countertop.

“We tried to play with different dimensions of sustainability here,” says MIT Professor Carlo Ratti, founding partner of CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati, “First, there is the use of solar energy to make coffee. Second, every step of the coffee making process, from bean to cup, is made transparent. Finally, all the waste from coffee production is reused in the design in various ways”.

“This project combines the Italian traditions of coffee and design with the principles of the circular economy. At the same time, it plays with the convergence between the natural and the artificial worlds, a topic that is central to the future of our work,” says Italo Rota, founder of Italo Rota Building Office.


Solar Coffee Garden. An installation for Lavazza by CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati and Italo Rota Building office
CRA Team: Carlo Ratti, Andrea Cassi (Partner in charge), Nicola Scaramuzza, Giovanni Trogu. Past team members: Luca Giacolini, Saverio Panata, Alessandro Tassinari. CRA Graphic team: Gary di Silvio, Pasquale Milieri, Gianluca Zimbardi. Italo Rota Building Office: Italo Rota, Francesca Grassi. Past team members: Francesco Lato. Fabricators: Eurofiere s.p.a. (Luca Bertoletti, Fabio Capelli). Makr Shakr (Alessandro Peretti Griva, Carlo Turati, Andrea Bulgarelli, Luca Cianfriglia). Photography credits: Michele Nastasi, Andre Enrico Cassettari Zanolla