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.
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.
The transfer of electricity has long been a conundrum for inventors and electrical engineers, and the question of power supply to different devices continues to be a focal point of research and development. Wireless systems and radio frequency signals increasingly look to be the future of powering devices, with many of the latest innovations to be showcased at Expo 2017 Astana.
Before the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, there was no standard method of the various electrical appliances and devices that had been invented. Thomas Edison had already wired a number of homes in New York City, but one vital element was missing that changed the way we consume power forever: the plug and socket.
Expo 1900 Paris featured awe-inspiring pavilions that showcased the ingenuity of participating countries, but one exhibit that stood out was the stunning Palais de l’Electricité (the Palace of Electricity), which was as remarkable for its beauty as its essential function on the Expo site.
Designed by Eugène Hénard, this architectural marvel was a 130-metre-long and 70-metre-high façade, covered with thin stained glass and an intricately designed ceramic decoration; crowned at the top by a chariot drawn by hippogriffs spewing showers of multi-coloured flames.
Expo 1893 in Chicago, the World’s Columbian Exhibition, surpassed all previous World Expos in size and unapologetically embraced progress and the modern era. The widespread use of electricity on the site of the Expo was a symbol of the positive side of modernity.
For the organisers, this major endeavour was essential, and it led to one of the most significant corporate and technical rivalries of the time so much so that it shaped the future of electricity in the United States.
Among Montreal’s many celebrations this year, the 50th anniversary of Expo 1967 is undoubtedly the one that brings on the strongest feelings of nostalgia among its residents. In the same year as it marks the 375th anniversary of the city’s founding and 150 years of Canadian Confederation, the city of Montreal is organising a range of activities to remember the glorious six months of 1967 when the city welcomed the world under the theme “Man and his World.”
On 4 March, Montrealers will be able to rediscover the excitement and wonder of Expo 1967 when the city holds its annual Nuit Blanche late night cultural event.
Expo 1889 Paris is remembered for introducing the world to the Eiffel Tower. However, it was also the site of another important debut: French visionary engineer Aristide Bergès’ demonstration of hydroelectricity, a concept known as “Houille Blanche” or “White Coal”, that swept through Europe and the world.
In the mid 19th century, the industrial revolution made coal the major source of energy and thus, a precious commodity. So when at the Expo, Bergès’ exhibit informed visitors about an alternate energy source, he called it “Houille Blanche”, to draw attention from visitors and to highlight the energy potential of water from the mountains, which had been ignored in favour of coal.
Augustin Mouchot’s solar device made its debut at Expo 1878 Paris. At a time when France was seeking to rebuild itself following the Franco-Prussian war, the inventor of the first parabolic solar collector was seen as a genius.
A brilliant French mathematician who possessed a futuristic mentality that led him to foresee a time when the world would no longer be able to depend on non-renewable resources, Mouchot first built a solar-powered steam engine using a concave mirror to reflect the sun’s rays onto a glass-covered boiler. To his amazement, it worked perfectly and motivated him to experiment further in Northern Africa.
Expos are more than just events to showcase accomplishments; they are also laboratories where breakthroughs are made. At Expo 1873 in Vienna, a major discovery was made when Belgian inventor Zénobe Gramme’s dynamo was inadvertently transformed into the first ever industrial electric motor.
As with previous Expos, the majority of machines showcased in the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire were powered by steam. Electricity was largely seen as an oddity, even if scientists and engineers had greatly improved their understanding of electrical currents. Werner von Siemens showcased one of the first dynamo-electric machines at Expo 1867 in Paris, but the industrial use of electricity as a source of power was constrained by the small and inconsistent amount of energy it could supply.
Expo 1889 in Paris is most famous today for the Eiffel Tower, but it was equally a major gathering of inventors, producers and artists from across the globe. While earlier Expos had mostly focused on manufactured products and machinery, by 1889 there was increased interest in other sectors, notably food and beverages, including beer.
At Paris’ first Expo in 1855, samples of beer were presented, but exhibitors did not take part in competitions. The widened scope of Expo 1867 allowed brewers to increase their presence, with 40 exhibitors showcasing their selection of beers. By the time of Expo 1878, this participation doubled, featuring mostly French and Belgian beer producers as well as a growing contingent from the United States.
At Expo 1867, the second World Expo to be organised in Paris, a newcomer in energy production made a breakthrough – the gas engine. The emergence of this alternative form of energy production was the subject of significant rivalry at the Expo and it would go on to make ripples as a new method of powering machines and transportation.
In the mid 19th century, demand for accessible and reliable energy was increasing at a rapid pace, driven by the inventions and discoveries of the industrial revolution. The coal-powered steam engine enjoyed a near-monopoly in the production of energy for machinery and locomotives, but improvements in its functioning were beginning to plateau. This gave rise to a quest to find more efficient, more powerful and more practical ways to source, produce and use energy.
On 10 June, Expo 2017 will open in Astana, Kazakhstan, under the theme “Future Energy.” The Specialised Expo will be an opportunity for host country and international participants alike to showcase the latest technologies and innovations in energy production, storage, access and use.
While the organisers, participants and visitors to Expo 2017 Astana will rightly focus on the latest innovations and trends that will shape the future of energy, the past can also provide inspiration. Previous Expos, at which innovation has been showcased and celebrated, may serve as an example and teach us lessons about the future.
It was 80 years ago today, on 30 November 1936, that the Crystal Palace in London was destroyed by a fire. Originally built as the centrepiece of the Great Exhibition of 1851 – the first ever World Expo – the historic building enjoyed a second life in Sydenham for 82 years before succumbing to its fate.
Designed by Joseph Paxton, the Crystal Palace was erected in Hyde Park in only five months, an amazing feat given its dimensions (563 metres long and 139 metres wide). With 84,000 m2 of plate glass used as the structure’s walls and ceilings, the Crystal Palace was an architectural marvel of its time and a symbol of the progress achieved under Queen Victoria’s reign.
Opening a World Expo is always a special moment as it marks the starting line for an event that will go onto attract millions of visitors from across the world. In 1933, Chicago wanted something electrifying to mark the opening of its “Century of Progress” Expo, a way to signal to participants and visitors how far the city had come since its establishment 100 years earlier.
While focused on technical innovation and the achievements of science and industry, Expo organisers also wanted to pay tribute to history, and notably to Expo 1893 – the World’s Columbian Exposition that was held in Chicago 40 years earlier. From these two considerations, a unique idea was born: to light up the Expo site using a beam of light that first left a star in 1893.
The Tower of the Sun, the iconic symbol of Expo 1970 Osaka, is to reopen to the public this weekend before undergoing structural renovations. Aside from certain rare occasions, the Tower has not been open for visits since the Expo closed over 46 years ago. This weekend’s exceptional opening will thus be a rare opportunity for visitors to rediscover the interior of the 70-metre tower, designed by Japanese artist Tarō Okamoto.
The Government of the Prefecture of Osaka initially planned for the totem-like tower to be open for one day only, asking members of the public to apply for the chance to be one of the 500 selected to visit. After over 40,000 applications were received, the Prefecture opted to extend the opening to the whole weekend, although places are still limited to 1,300. According to the Prefecture, many of those interested in visiting are from the older generation, suggesting a feeling of nostalgia from the days of the Expo.
Le Grand Palais – one of the most splendid buildings in Paris and a legacy of the city’s extraordinary World Expo in 1900 – is set to undergo a large-scale renovation, according to a recent announcement from its President, Sylvie Hubac. The aim of the works, which will take place between 2020 and 2024, is to bring greater flexibility and openness to the colossal structure, which is composed of several halls and venues.
The renovation programme will return the Grand Palais to its original splendour, removing internal walls and reusing the structure’s existing large bay windows and balconies. As a result, the capacity of the mammoth Nave – the main hall that hosts events including fashion shows, contemporary art fairs and show-jumping competitions - is set to double to 11,000 people.
While the legacy of a World Expo is often judged in the weeks and months following its closure, the long term contribution to the host city continues to evolve over decades. The latest announcement from Seville - that the Pavilion of the Future from Expo 1992 will become a regional Archive Centre – proves this, showing that even 24 years later, a pavilion built for the Expo can continue to attract interest and investment.
The Pavilion of the Future was one of the largest and most iconic buildings built for Expo 1992 in Seville, hosting the thematic areas of the Universe, Telecommunications, Energy and the Environment. Designed by the architects Martorell, Bohigas, Macklay and engineer Peter Rice, the 25,019 m2 building features a waveform roof and a free-standing façade composed of 11 semi-circular stone arches made from Rosa Poriña granite from Galicia. Located on the city’s Isla de la Cartuja, the Pavilion of the Future neighbours the ‘Seville Rocket’, a full-scale replica of the Ariane Four launch system.
The New York World’s Fair, which celebrated the 150th anniversary of George Washington’s presidential inauguration, was a momentous occasion for New Yorkers and for the world, attracting some 45 million visitors over its two seasons in 1939 and 1940. The Expo was also a remarkable event for fans of superheroes, as it staged the first ever appearance of Superman. Previously confined to comic books and radio shows, it was on 3 July 1940 that visitors could come to the Expo and for the very first time see the superhero in the flesh.
On this day, known as Superman Day, the cost of a children’s ticket to the Expo was reduced from 50 cents to 5 cents, encouraging visitors to attend. The event was the brainchild of publicist Allen ‘Duke’ Ducovny, with the aim of attracting more visitors to the Expo and boosting sales of the 100-page special edition of DC’s New York World’s Fair Comics, which was only on sale on the Expo site.
Expo 1970 in Osaka may have closed to the public more than 45 years ago, but the former Expo site continues to attract visitors. Today, locals and tourists alike have another reason to visit, with the opening of a 123-metre Ferris wheel – the largest in Japan and fifth largest in the world - in Osaka’s Expocity. The Redhorse Osaka Wheel provides riders with a breathtaking view of the Tower of the Sun, the iconic symbol of Expo 1970.
Since Expo 1970 came to an end, the original site has been partly preserved and partly renovated, allowing it to hold onto the Expo’s legacy while offering new activities to attract visitors. The 330-hectare site boasts a range of attractions, including the memorial park, a children’s museum, and ‘Expocity’ – Japan’s largest commercial complex in which the Redhorse Osaka Wheel is located.
After ending its highly praised exhibition as the UK Pavilion at Expo 2015 Milan, The Hive, winner of the BIE gold medal for architecture and landscape (pavilions less than 2,000m2), is starting a new life in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, in London. The iconic structure will be open to the public tomorrow, Saturday 18 June.
Expo 2015 Milan was organised under the theme ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’, and the Hive was the centrepiece of the UK’s participation in the Expo. The pavilion, which received over 3 million visits during the Expo, was designed by renowned architect Wolfgang Buttress and was dedicated to the role of bees in carrying out pollination. The contribution of these insects as pollinators is necessary for the reproduction of many plant species, making bees crucial to the global ecosystem and to the food chain. The Hive’s message draws attention to the importance of protecting bee species.
Today marks 30 years since the Mies van der Rohe’s pavilion was rebuilt in its original place for the enjoyment of Barcelona’s residents and in homage to its architect.
The Pavilion, originally designed for the World Expo 1929 by the prominent German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, served as the German national pavilion and was the venue for the reception of King Alfonso XIII of Spain as well as many German political figures.
Over six months after Expo 2015 Milano closed its gates and international participants lowered their flags, the Expo site partially reopened today to host a range of activities for the summer period. Residents and visitors alike are now able to access a 19-hectare area of the site for free, with the key attraction being the ‘City after the City’ exhibition series, which is part of the six-month XX1 Triennale di Milano design fair.
The area, which has been dubbed ‘Experience rESTATEaMilano’, includes the central part of the Expo site featuring the symbolic Tree of Life as well as the Palazzo Italia and the Lombardy pavilion. The zone is open between 3pm-11pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 27 May and 30 September.
The long term architectural contribution of an Expo to the city in which it took place – its legacy – is of significant interest to residents and visitors to the city. Planning the physical legacy of the Expo as part of the transformation that it brings to the city is a prerequisite to hosting a successful Expo.
Zaragoza’s iconic Bridge Pavilion (Pabellón Puente), designed by Zaha Hadid for Expo 2008, is one such monument that continues to stand to this day. It reopened to the public on 6 May 2016 and will remain open until 6 November. The pedestrian bridge is open from Monday to Sunday from 10am to 2pm and from 5pm to 9pm.
As the home of the Triennale di Milano, the Palazzo dell’Arte is a permanent edifice to the Italian design tradition as well as its modern day hub. The Palazzo, which is also known as the Palazzo della Triennale or the Palazzo Bernocchi, features research centres, conference rooms, bookshops, theatres, restaurants and a bar. It is located at the heart of the Italian design scene in Parco Sempione in Milan.
The history of the Palazzo dell’Arte goes back to Italian senator and philanthropist Antonio Bernocchi, who was a leading figure in the Italian textile industry. The Bernocchi brothers’ company, Bernocchi SpA, commissioned the Luminator Bernocchi, an innovative lamp that was both a work of art and a practical solution to illuminate garments from above without burning the fabric. The Luminator, which was designed by Luciano Baldessari, was showcased in the Italian Pavilion at the 1929 World Expo in Barcelona, and its success as an object of industrial design inspired the idea behind the establishment of a museum dedicated to design as well as art.
If the Century 21 Exposition, which took place in Seattle in 1962, was mainly aimed at promoting American scientific research and its leadership in spatial exploration, it was also the place for the shooting of a musical produced by Metro Goldwyn Mayer headlined by the famous actor and singer Elvis Presley. The plot of "It happened at the World's Fair" produced by Norman Taurog, takes place on the Seattle World Fair's site in a scenery which is both futuristic and very representative of the American 60's society. We follow the adventures of two friends, Danny and Mike, who decide to go to the World's Fair to find a job because of their debts.
The film crew arrived in Seattle on 5th September 1962, when the Expo had already been in full swing for five months. This date was not chosen randomly because it was precisely the start of the school year. The director wanted to avoid as much as possible scenes of massive hysteria caused by teenage fans of the "King". Unfortunately for him, young people from around tried by all means to come closer to their idol. Actually, there are numerous stories from fans: series of fainting, snatches of conversation with Elvis, or, for Sue Waters, an 18 year old lucky girl, four dates with the King.