Paul Smith team 'to design UK pavilion for world fair'

He is usually associated in the public mind with beautifully tailored, if somewhat expensive, suits, but Sir Paul Smith, fashion designer to the stars, is expected to be announced as a winner of a competition to design the UK pavilion at the 2015 World Fair in Milan.

Smith is one of a team, led by artist Wolfgang Buttress, which has proposed a design in which the UK's pavilion will be a virtual beehive, in order to "highlight the plight of the honeybee".

In the words of the proposal, visitors to the World Fair will walk through an orchard and a wildflower meadow before entering the hive, which will "pulsate, buzz and glow according to signals from a real hive".

The success of the idea against seven rival designs is expected to be announced next Sunday, according to trade bible Architects' Journal, although the government's trade and investment arm, UKTI, declined to comment.

The best-known "World Expo" was held in 1851 at the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London, under the title the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations. The aspiration – to allow nations to promote their design, commercial and industrial innovation every five years – remains the same.

Last week, however, the 2015 event became mired in controversy when a senior manager for Milan's Expo 2015 trade fair was arrested with six business people and politicians. Edmondo Bruti Liberati, a Milan prosecutor, reportedly said that the suspects were taped by police making suspected attempts to offer bribes to secure contracts for next year's fair.

At the last world fair in Shanghai, Britain won the award for the finest pavilion for a structure which became known as the Dandelion, for its radiating sprays of rods. The pavilion, designed by Thomas Heatherwick, attracted eight million visitors over six months in 2010 and was regarded as among the top attractions at an exhibition that attracted more than 70 million, a record number of visitors.

The 2015 proposal, in which Smith is involved, is said by its designers to "explore the life of the bee colony through an immersive sensory experience – a beautiful and profound encounter leaving visitors with a lasting flavour of the British landscape".

According to his website, Buttress, who is based in Nottingham, "creates simple, elegant and contextual artworks which seek to define and celebrate a sense of place and the sublime". One of his previous works is the 23ft Candle, said to be "inspired by the holy and the profane", erected in 2010 in Gloucester's docks.

Smith, who has a multimillion-pound fashion empire and more than 300 shops, said in Amsterdam last week that his job is to "touch people, with friendliness, or with emotion or by making them feel better or enjoy the experience of walking in my shop".

The Milan Expo takes place from May to October 2015. With the theme "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life", it will showcase designs centred around sustainability, technology and food.

France has already unveiled the design for its pavilion: a latticed wooden structure that will be used to grow food crops. And China has announced plans for a building with a wavy roof and an indoor field.