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.
Many are aware of the United States’ history with World Expos, with the country having organised several World and Specialised Expos. In addition to Chicago – which hosted World Expos in 1893 and 1933 – another Midwestern city has hosted a World Expo: St. Louis in 1904. This is not counting the Specialised Expos that also took place in the American heartland – Expo 1982 Knoxville, which had a theme based on energy and Expo 1984 New Orleans, with a theme around rivers. The latter was the most recent Expo hosted in the United States.
Twenty years ago, I came away from the Hannover’s Expo 2000 with the feeling that the Expo idiom was a bit tired, perhaps drained of some of the ambition that energised earlier World Expos. It had an environmental and sustainability theme, but it lacked dramatic architectural gestures or iconic structures. Attendance was lackluster. It did reflect a greater reliance on technology for visitors: in a time before smart phones, electronic information kiosks informed visitors. The entire Luxembourg Pavilion consisted of dozens of computer terminals where visitors could send free emails to anywhere in the world. Lines for them were long. From the perspective of the average iPhone user today, such a pavilion seems antique.
Hosted in the Swedish city of Helsingborg in 1955, “H55”, was a Specialised Expo dedicated to architecture, industrial design and home furnishing. Taking place as functional and utilitarian design was growing in success, Expo 1955 marked the arrival of ‘Scandinavian Modern’ as a new genre. With prominent Scandinavian designers responding to the public’s demand for aesthetically pleasing yet practical household goods, the Expo drew global attention to the influential role of Nordic countries in advancing it.
Twenty years ago today, Expo 2000 Hannover welcomed visitors to envision what the theme “Humankind – Nature – Technology” could mean in the 21st century. Here are a few interesting facts about this World Expo:
Now more than ever with the Covid-19 pandemic – which will hopefully be eliminated soon – World Expos have a huge role to show to the world the innovations and the best that humanity can do.