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.
In an era of rapid technological change and regularly updated devices, it is easy to underestimate the revolutionary impact of new inventions in the late 19th century. At World Expo 1878 Paris, one such invention - Thomas Edison’s phonograph, capable of recording and playing back sound – seemed so amazing to visitors that many were convinced it was a fake.
With Expos serving as a showcase for the creativity and technological innovation of their participating countries, pavilions provides an ideal element to combine both unique design and technical prowess. Such was the case with Germany’s pavilion at World Expo 2015 Milan, which boldly incorporated organic photovoltaics (OPV) – an exciting and rapidly developing form of solar power – into the structure of its “Field of Dreams” themed pavilion.
Heralding the “World of Tomorrow”, World Expo 1939 New York introduced the public to a wide range of consumer goods, offering a modern new era of accessible comfort. Among these new products were nylon stockings, an innovative item of clothing that went on to revolutionise wardrobes and fashion.
Without mobile phones, modern society would not be the same. Fifty years ago, visitors to World Expo 1970 Osaka had the first opportunity to discover what this technology offered, giving them a glimpse into a much more connected – and mobile – future.
In a world in which images and videos can be shared instantaneously to an unlimited audience, it is difficult to imagine how events were communicated and consumed by the public without modern technology. In the case of live television broadcasting, a major milestone was made with the first live address on the occasion of the opening ceremony of World Expo 1939 New York.
Expos create opportunities for businesses to stand out. They provide a unique platform to showcase new products, to measure up the competition, to be in direct contact with consumers and to test new tactics. For one particularly well-known company – Heinz – three Expos in the late 19th century marked the expansion of the small-scale family firm to a global player.
After IMAX at Expo 1970 Osaka, the A to Z of Innovations at Expos moves to another technology for public entertainment that was also launched at an Expo in Japan. This time, it was at Expo 1985 Tsukuba, and the innovation was the Jumbotron, the name for the giant screens that can be found in stadiums and major events venues around the world.
Among the many ways in which Expos have been at the forefront of innovations in public entertainment, the worldwide début of IMAX cinema at Expo 1970 Osaka is one of the most significant.
Marking the centenary of the French Revolution and centred around the monumental Eiffel Tower, World Expo 1889 in Paris was a hotbed of ambitious ideas. One of these, though it received little attention at the time, was the concept of hydroelectricity, presented by French engineer Aristide Bergès.
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.