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.
On the occasion of International Museum Day on 18 May, and coinciding with the 10th anniversary of Expo 2010 Shanghai, the World Expo Museum (WEM) has released "See the world", a series of miniature-films recounting some of the most memorable World Expos in history.
165 years ago today, France opened the gates to Expo 1855 Paris, the first World Expo to take place in the country and the second ever, after the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London. Here are some interesting facts about this singular event:
Having been inaugurated on 1 May 2017, the World Expo Museum (WEM) in Shanghai is now three years old, and is today more than ever a hub for exploring and celebrating Expo memories.
5 years ago today, Expo 2015 Milan invited visitors to learn about and engage in the theme of “Feeding the Planet, Energy of life”. Here are few facts about the most recent World Expo:
A decade ago today, World Expo 2010 Shanghai opened its gates to the public, embarking tens of millions of visitors on a six-month journey into the theme “Better City, Better Life”. Here are a few interesting facts about this truly groundbreaking World Expo:
Fastening clothes and accessories may seem too simple to be the focus of an important innovation. Indeed, visitors to World Expo 1893 Chicago may have seen Whitcomb Judson’s “Clasp Locker” on display without realising how this device would be the predecessor of an overlooked everyday innovation: the zipper.
85 years ago today, Expo 1935 Brussels opened its doors to visitors from all over Europe and the world. Here are a few facts about the World Expo that you might not have known:
Widely known as La Ville Lumière or the ‘City of Lights’, Paris is famed for its streetlights, first tested in the late 18th century and which became a symbol of the city during the Belle Époque. It was when the whole world was in Paris, during World Expo 1878, that one of the most advanced forms of electrical lighting of its time – the Yablochkov candle – made its debut.
Alfred Heller, dean of American Expo writers, died in December 2019 at the age of 90. Alf had attended almost every Expo since his first, the 1939-40 Golden Gate International Exposition in his native San Francisco. He was a mentor to many of us who write on the subject. From 1981 to 1995, he published World Fair magazine, and he authored his personal memoir of Expo history and his observations, “World’s Fairs and the End of Progress: An Insider’s View,” published in 1999.
Taking place in the world’s largest economy and in midst of the second industrial revolution, World Expo 1904 St. Louis introduced many new technologies and innovations to the public. One of these innovations was the X-ray machine, a fledgling technology that has revolutionised healthcare.
The iconic symbol of the future now stands in solidarity with our isolation.
We’re 20 years into Century 21 — the theme of the Expo 1962 Seattle – and while some wild ideas were presented at that forward-thinking event, we never imagined the future would look quite like this.
Most modern products are the result of years of continuous innovations. The washing machine is one such product. For years, innovators have been looking into this household chore to save time, energy and water. One of these innovators, Richard Lansdale, took the opportunity to showcase his creation – the Compound Rotary Washing Machine – at World Expo 1862 in London.
In 2020, voice recognition technology can be used by anyone with a smartphone. Back in the 1960s, the idea of a human operating a machine by using vocal commands seemed like science fiction. Visitors to World Expo 1962 Seattle – the Space Age Expo - were therefore amazed by IBM’s Shoebox – an early computer that responded to voice controls.
World Expo 2005 Aichi, which opened its gates 15 years ago today, was the venue for numerous technological innovations, including the Super Hi-Vision Theater - where the public was introduced to what is commonly known as Ultra HDTV for the first time.
The chances are that most people reading this blog post are doing so via a touchscreen, a ubiquitous part of modern life whether it be on phones, tablets, or supermarket checkouts. Though it is very much a 21st century phenomenon, the history of the touchscreen goes back decades, with Expo 1982 Knoxville being the venue for the first public showcase of this technology.
Inventors and entrepreneurs have long been hoping to harness the power of the sun as a long-term source of sustainable energy. French mathematics professor Augustin Mouchot was a precursor, when he first demonstrated the potential of this form of energy, showcasing the parabolic solar collector, at World Expo 1878 in Paris.
Present in thousands of everyday products, rubber is ubiquitous in the modern world. While it has been used in its natural form for thousands of years, it was only after the development of vulcanisation by American inventor Charles Goodyear – showcased with grandeur at World Expo 1851 London – that rubber became the widespread material it is today.
Celebrating the 100th anniversary of American Independence, World Expo 1876 Philadelphia introduced the public to a multitude of innovations, including the Sholes & Glidden typewriter, sold under the brand name Remington No. 1. While other typewriters had already been produced, the Remington No. 1 was the first to be a commercial success and the first ever to feature the Qwerty format keyboard.
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.
The World Expo is arguably the single biggest showcasing event of a nation outside of its own borders. It is one of the few mass events that still commands worldwide attention. But unlike the Olympic Games or the FIFA World Cup, the World Expo is not a “media event;” rather, the spectacle is to be sensed and experienced by “being there.”
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.
From cordless elevators to machines that make water from thin air, visitors to Expo 2020 Dubai, 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.
Dubai is getting ready to host an estimated 25 million visitors for Expo 2020 Dubai. Recently, on 20 October, the entire United Arab Emirates (UAE) celebrated the one-year countdown to the Middle East’s first-ever World Expo.
The one year to go Expo 2020 launch event was held mainly at the Burj Park in the heart of downtown Dubai - home to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Mall, the Dubai Fountains and the Dubai Opera. It was a star-studded event, with live performances from Mariah Carey and Emirati singer Hussain Al Jassmi. So popular in fact that the 7,500 tickets to the event reportedly “sold out within seconds.”
Vancouver hosted a Specialised Expo back in 1986 that transformed the sleepy city on the Pacific coast to consistently being voted as one of the most livable cities, where last year it ranked sixth. Expo 1986 propelled the largest city in the Canadian province of British Colombia (BC) on the global spotlight and accelerated the economic development that was much needed to transform it to the global player it is now. Expo 1986 is even credited with helping get BC out of recession as well, which hit the province hard especially in 1982.
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.
How the wider horticulture sector and Expos in general highlight the importance of the industry, the challenges and future opportunities.
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.
Time capsules, those repositories of artifacts concealed for the future, have a long association with Expos. A project in Seattle this year is inviting people to continue a capsule tradition at the Space Needle on the site of World Expo 1962 - Seattle’s Century 21 Exposition.
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.