The Expo Blog is a space for posts on the history, themes, legacies and experience of Expos. It includes articles from the BIE and external contributors.
A quarter of a century after Seville welcomed the world for World Expo 1992, the Andalusian capital is gearing up to celebrate the anniversary of the event that was a watershed moment in the history of the city, the region and the country. With the support of Mayor Juan Espada, a 25th anniversary commission will, in partnership with Legado Expo Sevilla, organise over 30 activities between April and October 2017 to commemorate the Expo and to actively promote its legacy.
Marking the arrival of Spain as a democratic, European and proudly diverse country, Expo 1992 gathered 108 countries and international organisations, and received 42 million visits, higher than Spain’s population at the time. Organised under the theme “The Age of Discovery”, the Expo celebrated 500 years of Christopher Columbus’ famed departure from the city prior to the European discovery of the Americas. Seville has good reason to celebrate Expo 1992, an event that modernised the city, brought worldwide attention to Andalusia, and was a catalyst for the development of La Cartuja and the wider region.
The water-energy “nexus” – the intricate connection and special relationship between water and energy – has long been at the heart of humanity’s efforts to harness and manage energy for its own uses.
The importance of this nexus was already evident in 1939, when the Belgian city of Liège hosted a Specialised Expo under the theme “Water Management”, celebrating the completion of the Albert Canal.
Organised under the theme “World of Tomorrow”, Expo 1939 in New York celebrated the “Dawn of a New Day”, which was partly made possible by the electrification of the country. Increased access to safe and reliable energy in the first part of the 20th century lead to a wave of optimism and hope for a future shaped by technological prowess and societal changes.
In 1900, only around 2% of homes in the United States were electrified, but by 1939, this proportion had increased dramatically to approximately 70%.
Sustainable architecture and the passive house concept are undoubtedly subjects of priority among urban planners and architects in the 21st century. But long before concerns about reducing emissions and minimising energy use, one of the first concept homes integrating sustainable design was showcased at Expo 1933 in Chicago.
Built in the backdrop of the Great Depression, the House of Tomorrow, designed by American modernist architect, George Fred Keck, was presented at the “Century of Progress Exhibition”. It was a vision of what the future could offer and is considered as a pioneer in modern housing solar design.
The development of renewable energy alongside urbanisation and population growth has made the transmission of electricity a pressing issue for policymakers. Urban centres are often located hundreds or thousands of kilometres from the source of energy, and unlike fossil fuels, renewables cannot be transported. In response to this challenge, “supergrids” are being developed using specially built cables using direct current as very high voltages (HVDC), allowing large volumes of electricity to be efficiently transported over long distances.
The development of supergrids in the 21st century is the continuation of efforts since the dawn of the electric age to increase capacity and scale up access to electricity. As early as Expo 1904 in St. Louis, Chester H. Thordarson showcased a half-million volt transformer, winning a gold medal for the invention which he built in only 28 days. But it was not until Expo 1915 in San Francisco that Thordarson set the bar for electrical transmission when the public were introduced to the million-volt transformer, part of the High Tension Research Pavilion within the Machinery Palace.