The Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) is the intergovernmental organisation in charge of overseeing and regulating World Expos, Specialised Expos, Horticultural Expos and the Triennale di Milano.
From the mid 19th century, industrial advancements led to a race to develop higher performance engines in order to move beyond the practical constraints of coal-powered steam engines. At Expo 1867 Paris, much of the focus was on the gas engine, where a newcomer – the Otto-Langen atmospheric engine – drew praise for its innovative efficiency.
Improvements in communications are often some of the most fascinating innovations showcased at World Expos, offering visitors a vision of a future where interactions across the world will be quicker and easier. This was the case as early as the first Expo – the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London – where an early version of the fax machine was on display.
When thinking about an electric car, most people would cast their minds to a recent invention, with new electric-powered vehicles growing in popularity as fossil fuels are replaced with greener alternatives. Few would think that electric cars go back more than a century, with one model in particular by Lohner-Porsche being the centre of the show at World Expo 1900 in Paris.
One of the three subthemes of Expo 2020 Dubai is Mobility – looking at the different ways humankind has moved around and explored. At Expo 1867 Paris, one form of mobility was advanced by the inspired creation of Benoit Rouquayrol and Auguste Denayrouze: the diving suit.
Expo 1970 Osaka – the first World Expo held in Asia – was a showcase of Japan’s rapid growth and its status as a country of technological innovation. Among the many cutting-edge creations on display, the Expo’s official clock system was one of the most impressive.
As well as the many cutting-edge technologies introduced at Expos over the years, some more ordinary – but not less important – items of daily wear have also made their début, including the bra.
With one year to go until Expo 2020 Dubai, excitement is rising about the innovations and solutions that will be showcased at the next World Expo. From cordless elevators to machines that make water from thin air, visitors to Expo 2020 can expect to discover a myriad of cutting-edge technologies that will shape the future, just as visitors to past Expos were offered a glimpse of what was to come.
The last week of this A to Z of Expo architects is dedicated to Eberhard Zeidler, who designed the Canada Pavilion for Specialised Expo 1986 Vancouver, in partnership with Barry Downs.
Taking the Y position in the list of Expo Architects is Seattle-born Minoru Yamasaki, who made his breakthrough as an architect by designing the US Science Pavilion for World Expo 1962 in his home city.
This week, the A to Z of Expo Architects turns its focus to Greek-French composer, architect and director Iannis Xenakis, who created the revolutionary Philips Pavilion at World Expo 1958 in partnership with Le Corbusier.
Taking the W spot on the Expo Architects list is André Waterkeyn, a Belgian metallurgical engineer turned architect who teamed up with his brothers-in-law André and Jean Polak to design the centrepiece of World Expo 1958 Brussels: the Atomium.
Venezuelan architect and activist José “Fruto” Vivas occupies the V spot in the A to Z series. Already celebrated in his home country for his bold creations such as the Club Táchira, Vivas was selected to design Venezuela’s Pavilion at World Expo 2000 Hannover.
Austrian-Australian architect, illustrator and set designer Joseph Urban takes the ‘U’ position of Expo Architects for his contribution to World Expo 1933 Chicago. Already known around the world for his vivid creations – including Austria’s pavilion at Expo 1904 St. Louis - Urban created Expo 1933’s dazzling exterior colour scheme and devised its lighting strategy, an essential aspect of the Art Deco style that was the hallmark of the event.
Kenzō Tange, one of Japan’s leading architects of the 20th century, occupies the T position in the A to Z of Expo Architects. Known for combining Japanese traditions and Western influences in his celebrated urban projects, the Pritzker laureate was the main planner for World Expo 1970 Osaka and designed the Expo’s mammoth Festival Plaza.
Israeli-Canadian architect, urban planner and author Moshe Safdie is in the spotlight for this week’s instalment of the A to Z of Expo Architects for designing the Habitat 67 urban residential complex for World Expo 1967 Montreal.
German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe stands out for defining his own architectural style that, combining clarity and simplicity, reshaped 21st century styles. As a pioneer of modern architecture, the last director of the Bauhaus school takes the R spot in the A to Z series for creating Germany’s remarkable pavilion at World Expo 1929 Barcelona.
Italian urbanist and architect Ludovico Quaroni takes this week’s spot on the list of Expo Architects for his contribution to Italy’s pavilion at World Expo 1958 Brussels.
Known for his use of vernacular models in urban projects and a preference for traditional designs over monumental architecture, Quaroni was one of nine architects who contested the Italian Government’s competition to showcase a modern and resurging Italy at Expo 1958. The group of architects instead came together to create a resolutely anti-modernist project, demonstrating an act of insubordination while reflecting the tense climate that dominated architectural debate in the post-war era.
It is a British gardener and greenhouse builder – Joseph Paxton – who occupies the “P” spot of the A to Z of Expo Architects series for his major contribution to industrial-era building design. Celebrated as a horticulturalist in his own right (he notably created the Cavendish banana), Paxton planned the Crystal Palace as the exhibition hall for Expo 1851 London, the first ever World Expo.
Engineer, architect and pioneer of tensile structures, Frei Otto takes the “O” spot for this week’s A to Z of Expo Architects. Rising to fame for designing the Federal Republic of Germany’s revolutionary pavilion at World Expo 1967 Montreal, Otto later added to his Expo contribution by co-designing Japan’s iconic paper pavilion at World Expo 2000 Hannover.
In 2022, the Netherlands will host its seventh Horticultural Expo (‘Floriade’) in the city of Almere, in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area, under the theme “Growing Green Cities”. With preparations now well underway, and with the Holland Garden at Expo 2019 Beijing currently showcasing this theme, Peter Verdaasdonk, CEO of Floriade Expo 2022 Amsterdam-Almere, outlines his vision for the event.
One of the fathers of modern architecture, a Pritzker Prize laureate and a key figure in the development of Brasilia, Oscar Niemeyer is in the spotlight for this week’s instalment of the Expo Architects A to Z.
Selected to design the pavilion of his home country, at World Expo 1939 New York, Niemeyer created a unique vision of “Brasilidade”, portraying the country’s modernity to an American audience while remaining committed to Brazil’s own identity.
The M spot of the A-Z of Expo Architects series is occupied by Imre Makovecz, a major figure of organic architecture and first President of the Hungarian Academy of Arts. Marginalised by authorities from 1976 until the end of the 1980s, Makovecz was commissioned to design the country’s pavilion at World Expo 1992 Seville, which perfectly encapsulated his compelling idiosyncratic and organic style.
Renowned Polish-American architect, artist and designer Daniel Libeskind occupies the L spot in the A to Z series. For World Expo 2015 Milan, Libeskind’s studio created not only a corporate pavilion for Chinese property developer Vanke, but also the four gleaming gate-like structures in the heart of Piazza Italia – ‘The Wings’.
A well-established figure for the daring and spectacular shapes of his designs, Libeskind teamed up with Vanke to create a pavilion that developed Expo 2015’s theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”, and which showcased green technology and sustainability, both in its form and its content.
Taking the letter K in the Expo Architects series is Kisho Kurokawa, a leading figure in Japanese architecture of the 20th century who pioneered organic structures. At Osaka’s futuristic World Expo 1970, Kurokawa designed three pavilions: the Capsule House theme pavilion, the Takara Beautilion pavilion and the Toshiba-IHI pavilion.
Seattle’s World Expo 1962 is known for celebrating the Space Age and for putting Seattle on the map, notably with the construction of the Space Needle. More than this, the Century 21 Exposition was also a venue for showcasing innovations and offering visitors a glimpse of what the future had in store.
One of these innovations was the first ever cordless telephone, specially created so as to allow calls to be made from the Space Needle’s revolving restaurant without the complication of cables. The futuristic cordless phones were a hit with the public, but would not become commonplace for another several years.
After BIG’s pavilion for Denmark at Expo 2010 Shanghai, this week’s instalment of the A-Z of Expo Architects has only a short distance to go, with Finland’s pavilion, designed by Helsinki-based architectural group JKMM, situated a stone’s throw away.
Winning a tough competition with over 100 entries, JKMM – composed of Asmo Jaaksi, Teemu Kurkela, Samuli Miettinen and Juha Mäki-Jyllilä – created a pavilion that offered a microcosm of Finnish society, responding to the theme of Expo 2010 Shanghai, “Better City, Better Life”. Dubbed “Kirnu”, meaning Giant’s Kettle, the pavilion was inspired by the many large cavities cut into bedrock that form a key part of Finland’s geography.
Perhaps the youngest architect featuring on this A-Z series, Bjarke Ingels had nevertheless already made a name for himself when at 35 years old, he created, Denmark’s enchanting pavilion for World Expo 2010 Shanghai.
Having created his own architectural office (Bjarke Ingels Group – BIG) in 2006, Ingels was selected, with 2+1 and Arup, to design his home country’s pavilion at the first World Expo to take place in China. The architect and his team took an unconventional yet perceptive approach to the challenge: showcasing the virtues of urban life in Denmark via a 3,000m2 temporary building.
Opening on 30 April 1939, New York’s World Expo 1939 promoted “Building the World of Tomorrow” in a period marked by the Great Depression and spectre of upcoming war. While many futuristic pavilions and displays enthralled visitors, one of the most outlandish was ‘The Dream of Venus’, a surrealist funhouse created by Salvador Dalí. On the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the Expo and the 30th anniversary of the artist’s death, Montse Aguer, the Director of the Dalí Museums, recounts how the pavilion transgressed the modernism of the Expo and explains the significance of this work to Dali’s personal vision.
Taking the “H” spot on the Expo Architects list is the first woman to be awarded the Pritzker Prize, acclaimed Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid.
Renowned for her bold, curvaceous buildings that blend in with the local environment, one of Hadid’s most outstanding creations is the Bridge Pavilion, built for Specialised Expo 2008 Zaragoza.
Creating magnificent structures for Expos is not only a question of design, it is also one of overcoming obstacles, building under various constraints, and pushing boundaries in the use of innovative techniques and approaches. This is notably the case for Charles Girault, who took on the hefty task of coordinating three separate designs in order to build an enchanting palace of fine arts – the Grand Palais - for Expo 1900 Paris.
With its impressive glass nave rising between the Champs-Elysées and the Seine River, the Grand Palais was built following a long selection process in which it was decided to combine the three winning entries by Henri-Adolphe Deglane, Albert Louvet and Albert Thomas. Charles Girault was given the responsibility of overseeing and supervising the mammoth project – and reconciling the designs of all architects involved.
Following on from Gustave Eiffel, the A to Z of Expo Architects moves on to another groundbreaking designer who made waves for his original and bold creations: Richard Buckminster Fuller.
Perhaps as celebrated for his unbuilt projects as for the structures that saw the light of day, one of Fuller’s most iconic creations is World Expo 1967 Montreal’s United States’ pavilion, the largest geodesic dome at the time of more than half a sphere, today known as the Biosphere.
His most famous creation having just turned 130 years old, it is only natural that Gustave Eiffel occupies the “E” spot in the Expo Architecture series. Undoubtedly the most recognisable and the tallest Expo structure ever created, the Eiffel Tower – built for World Expo 1889 Paris – is not only an icon for Paris and France, it is also a symbol for World Expos.
The idea behind the Tower was first floated by Expo Organisers, who wanted a 300-metre tall welcome tower to greet visitors to the event which celebrated the 100th anniversary of the French revolution. Among 107 proposals submitted, it was Gustave Eiffel’s innovative wrought-iron lattice design, developed by engineers Maurice Koechlin and Émile Nouguier, that was finally selected. The structure’s final design was concluded after contributions by architect Stephen Sauvestre, who added the iconic arches to its base.
Unique structures are one of the highlights of World Expos, and it is often among the national pavilions that some of the most striking buildings can be found. Such is the case for Haim Dotan’s curvilinear pavilion, designed for Israel at Expo 2010 Shanghai, which takes the “D” spot in the Expo Architecture series.
Renowned for his cutting-edge styles and techniques, Israeli-American architect, urban designer and poet Haim Z. Dotan designed the 1,200m2 pavilion with the theme “Innovation for Better Life”, responding to the Expo theme, “Better City, Better Life”.
Among the creations of Santiago Calatrava, more than one have been designed for Expos. Already in 1992, the Spanish architect and structural designer created the iconic Puente del Alamillo and Kuwait's unique pavilion for World Expo 1992 Seville. A treat will also be in store at World Expo 2020 Dubai, where Calatrava has designed the host country’s 15,000m2 falcon-inspired national pavilion, currently under construction.
But the "C" selection in the Expo Architects series opts for undoubtely one of the most visited of Calatrava's creations: the grandiose Gare do Oriente railway station, opened as the main entrance hub for Specialised Expo 1998 in Lisbon.
Following on from Tadao Ando, the A to Z of Expo Architects continues with another Japanese Pritzker laureate: Shigeru Ban.
A pioneer in the development of temporary buildings for disaster victims, Ban teamed up with Frei Otto to create a unique pavilion for Japan at World Expo 2000 Hannover: one of the world’s largest paper-tube structures.
As more and more countries reveal their pavilion designs for Expo 2020 Dubai, a look back at architectural creations from past Expos offers many inspirational and intriguing designs. With thousands of architects having shaped the history of structures and the built environment by designing bold pavilions, structures and sites for Expos, it is impossible to sufficiently highlight them all. Instead, each week will see a new post for each letter of the alphabet, offering a snapshot of 26 selected figures in the world of architecture.
With 600 days until Expo 2020 Dubai, more than 20 countries have unveiled the design of their pavilions.
Here’s an overview of what has already been announced, offering a preview of how each country will interpret the theme of Expo 2020: “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” as well as the three subthemes: Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability.
The XXII Triennale di Milano, themed “Broken Nature: Design Takes on Human Survival” will open to the public on 1 March 2019. In an interview with the BIE, the President of the Triennale di Milano Foundation, Stefano Boeri, and the Curator of the XXII Triennale, Paola Antonelli, explain how this 22nd edition will explore the role of design in addressing the compromised bonds that connect humans to the natural environment.
Star architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha, born in Espirito Santo on 25 October 1928, turns 90 today. Opening his Sao Paolo office in 1955, Mendes da Rocha quickly established himself as an architect of the Paulista school, which contrasted sophisticated engineering with a ‘rough’ finish.
It was this approach that saw Mendes da Rocha chosen to design Brazil’s pavilion at World Expo 1970 Osaka, a creation that served as a springboard for his career.
Eighty years ago today, some seven months before the opening of Expo 1939 New York, a time capsule was buried in the middle of the Expo site. The instructions were clear: it was not to be dug up until the year 6939 – some 5,000 years later.
The bold time capsule project was an initiative of Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company, with the aim of presenting a snapshot of the era while paying tribute to the Expo’s theme “The World of Tomorrow”. The electrical company aimed to immortalise life in the 1930s, based on the latest technologies and inventions of the era. By doing so, the highly publicised event was also familiarising people with the ‘modernity’ in which they lived.
For participating countries, World Expos are major platforms for national branding, offering a unique opportunity to showcase themselves to a large public audience. With almost two years until the next World Expo in Dubai, the BIE interviews Ambassador Nicolas Bideau, Head of Presence Switzerland, Dietmar Schmitz, Commissioner General for Germany at Expo 2020 Dubai, and Dr. Jian (Jay) Wang, director of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy, to gain three different insights into nation branding at World Expos.
Seattle’s iconic Space Needle – built as the centrepiece of World Expo 1962 – recently unveiled a dramatic $100 million “spacelift”, notably featuring a revamped observation deck and the world’s first revolving glass floor. On this occasion, the BIE interviewed Knute Berger, consulting historian at the Space Needle and Seattle-based author, journalist and commentator.
Belgium celebrates this year the 60th anniversary of World Expo 1958 in Brussels. On this occasion, the BIE interviewed Henri Simons, Director of the Atomium and ADAM – Brussels Design Museum, who explains how this event has marked several generations and why it is still so popular today.
10 years ago today, Spain welcomed the world to Specialised Expo 2008 Zaragoza, the first of its kind. Over three months, the event gathered over five million visitors for an immersive journey into the theme “Water and Sustainable Development”, highlighting the issue of managing the Earth’s scarce resources and presenting solutions for the future.
The event was a watershed moment for the capital of Aragon, transforming the city’s riverbank and reinforcing its status as a global centre on water management. A decade later, a range of cultural events are being organised to commemorate the experience of Expo 2008, while also looking towards the ways in which the Expo’s physical and intangible legacy can be promoted.
On 7 June 2008, the Third Millennium Bridge was inaugurated in Zaragoza, Spain, connecting the city centre to the site of Expo 2008, which opened to the public the following week. Spanning 279 metres across the Ebro River, the bridge is one of the largest infrastructure projects that accompanied the Expo, and remains, 10 years later, the largest of its kind in the world.
After 35 months of construction, the bridge’s prominent arch – reaching 25 metres above the deck - created a new addition to Zaragoza’s cityscape, while providing Expo visitors with a brightly lit focal point when returning home in the evening.
Expos are blank canvasses for innovative structures and architectural concepts, giving new and established architects the opportunity to design memorable pavilions. One such architect is Karl Schwanzer, the celebrated Austrian architect who was born 100 years ago today.
A major figure in post-War architecture, Karl Schwanzer first made the headlines for his native country’s national pavilion at Expo 1958 in Brussels. This success was followed nine years later when he designed not only Austria’s pavilion at Expo 1967 Montreal, but also the Expo’s on-site Vienna Kindergarten.
20 years ago today, as the Portuguese capital was preparing to open Expo 1998, Gare do Oriente was inaugurated. At the core of the redevelopment of Lisbon’s eastern neighbourhood, the opening of the ultra-modernist train station on 19 May 1998 was a milestone for Portuguese architecture and one of the final steps in the preparation of Expo 1998, which welcomed its first visitors only three days later.
For the millions of visitors coming to Lisbon for the first time to visit the Expo, the new station, designed by celebrated Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, was a bright and modern point of arrival.
World Expos are often known for their architecture and inventions, but they are equally as remarkable for the cultural innovations that they foster. One such innovation made its debut 60 years ago today, when the Czechoslovak pavilion at Expo 1958 Brussels first staged Laterna Magika, creating a sensation in the world of theatre that continue to this day.
Initially called Non-stop revue as it played all day long, the show, directed by Alfréd Radok (also the director and manager of the National Theatre of Prague) and scenographer Josef Svoboda, depicted everyday life in Czechoslovakia. The directors were notably assisted by a young scenario writer, who went on to become globally-acclaimed film director Milos Forman.
On 5 April 1968, San Antonio opened the gates to Specialised Expo “Hemisfair ’68”, which marked the 250th anniversary of the city’s founding. The event, which gathered 6 million visitors under the theme “The Confluence of Civilizations in the Americas”, was a key moment for San Antonio, transforming the heart of the city.
This weekend, within the framework of its tricentennial celebrations, the Texan city commemorates 50 years of the Expo that celebrated cultural diversity across the western hemisphere. Demonstrating the Expo’s lasting impact, the anniversary is being marked by a range of activities within the former Expo site – HemisFair Park – and a number of buildings dating from the event, most notably the emblematic Tower of the Americas.
Le 10 juin 2017, « Artistes & Robots » faisait ses premiers pas au sein de l’Exposition Spécialisée d’Astana au Kazakhstan. Dans un univers virtuel et interactif, des installations générées par des logiciels informatiques et des robots conçus par des artistes traduisaient l’énergie créatrice et interrogeaient les visiteurs quant à la définition d’une œuvre et à l’avenir de l’Homme.
Après Astana en 2017, « Artistes & Robots » fait son entrée à Paris, à partir du 5 avril, au Grand Palais.