Never more so than today has the world required refreshed and optimistic social capital as a way of bridging the divides between us, celebrating our culture, and collectively tackling global issues. World Expos, by design, are incredible platforms for generating and demonstrating social capital — both locally and internationally. This capital can be harvested from like-minded but culturally and socially diverse groups — which contribute significantly to cities, nations, and regions, and broader socioeconomic, political, and environmental successes. At Expo 2020 Dubai, the stage is set to bring millions of people together from around the world to reaffirm our global commonalities and responsibilities, and to share with one another our national and cultural individualities with the goal of making the world a better place for future generations.
World Expo 2010, held along the banks of the Huangpu River in Shanghai, China, marked the first time that a World Expo theme focused on quality of life in cities. This gave the international community a unique opportunity to share their achievements and offer a comprehensive overview of the theme of “Better City, Better Life”. In those 184 unforgettable days, 246 countries and international organisations showcased their ambitious plans and creative ideas for urban development, making a significant contribution to the advancement of human civilisation and the sustainable development of cities. Beyond its physical impact on Shanghai, the spiritual wealth of the Expo is today seen in the creations of the Shanghai Declaration, most notably the Shanghai Manual and the establishment of World Cities Day.
Fifty years have passed since the first World Expo in Japan: Expo 1970 Osaka. The Expo was held from 15 March to 13 September 1970, under the theme “Progress and Harmony for Mankind”. It was a category-one General Exhibition under the Convention Relating to International Exhibitions.
Expos provide favourable conditions for triggering the senses and creating memorable experiences. The face-to-face contact established by exhibitors and visitors, and the high diversification of means of expression in “live” demonstrations allow the creation of a very unique offer that can lead to success in experience marketing. At a time when lives are becoming faster and people are confronted with more and more stimuli, those who design Expo pavilions need to understand what is encapsulated in visitor experiences and what are the determinants for effective activities based on experiences.
In recent years, creating an urban legacy has gradually become the focus of event-led development or regeneration in cities. World Expo 2010 Shanghai, held under the theme “Better city, Better life” was organised to emphasise the concept of “city of harmony” and to promote the sustainable development of the city. The event itself is considered one of the most successful World Expos, attracting more than 200 international participants and more than 73 million visitors. But to what extent has Shanghai achieved its sustainable urban legacy?
Expo 2005 Aichi was an epoch-making World Expo in every aspect, as it sought innovative solutions for various issues in society, in line with the aims of Expos and the BIE. Through innovative exhibits, events, and operation methodologies, the event - themed "Nature's Wisdom" - expressed and demonstrated all the possibilities and potential embraced through technologies, social transformation and people’s behavioural changes driven by enhanced awareness.
World Expos are more than a platform for nations to promote their cultures and innovations; it is a stage for public engagement on a grand, global scale. They are by design to provide a mind-expanding experience to the broader public through real-world encounters, and are hence an important element of a nation’s public diplomacy effort.
Dubai and the United Arab Emirates will be on the global stage when Expo 2020 Dubai – the first World Expo in the Arab world – opens to great anticipation. At the heart of the Expo, the Sustainability Pavilion is an ambitious and innovative signature structure whose design and contents will captivate the world. The pavilion is a chance for Dubai and the UAE to lead a new approach to sustainability and conservation, showcasing interesting and innovative methodologies of adapting to ecology and climate, while promoting long term solutions for society.
Some of the greatest successes in the history of national projection overseas have been accomplished by Expo pavilions: Finland’s presence at the Expo 1900 Paris was a spectacular ‘coming out party’ for the nation that predated the country’s independence from the Russian Empire by seventeen years. Weimar Germany’s pavilion at Expo 1929 Barcelona introduced the world to Bauhaus and created an enduring iconic modernist space and design.
The Republic of Korea has hosted two Specialised Expos, officially known as International Recognised Exhibitions. These Expos have the power not only to create a strong impetus for local development, but also for bringing global attention to specific issues facing the world. Above all, these events enormously enhanced Korean appreciation of Expos as they showcased their capacity to open up the host city to the world and to take a leading view of global issues. Most notably with Expo 2012 Yeosu, the organisation of such an event changed perceptions and is considered as the foundation for organising bigger international events.
Throughout their entire 160-year plus history, World Expos have been catalysts for change, showcasing ground-breaking innovations that still impact the world today and sparking discussions that have changed the course of our future. Expo 2020 Dubai will be no exception.
The organisation of large events, including World Expos, can significantly affect the urban landscape of the host city and region. The intensity of the changes depends on a number of factors, especially the size of the city and the degree to which it is equipped with transport infrastructure and other facilities relevant to events.
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.
Much journalistic and even social scientific writing on mega-events like Expos and Olympics is concerned with definitively characterising particular cases in relation to sectoral (e.g. economic) aspects and in terms of relatively short-term impacts. Mega-events have long been recognised as often leaving in their host cities significant and sometimes spectacular material legacies, including new functional public facilities (for instance museums or sport stadia), transport infrastructures and iconic architecture. It is less commonly recognised that they have also often promoted a very different and comparatively unspectacular kind of element in the central cityscapes of their host cities, namely major parks and the public spheres and services they typically provide.
In 1851, the date of the first World Expo, electricity was not yet used for lighting or as a power source, the internal combustion engine did not exist, neither the radio nor the telephone had been invented, and the first motorised aeroplane had yet to take off. In architecture, the use of industrial iron was just beginning, while steel was not yet used in building. Reinforced concrete had not been invented. Stone, wood and brick were still the main construction materials used. Since this date, Expos have borne witness to and been the venue of the advances that have transformed the world which we know today.
10 days after Member States of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) voted for Japan to organise World Expo 2025 in Osaka, In Focus looks at the lasting impact of mega-events. In this article, Prof. Mark Wilson highlights examples of several past Expos, focusing on how they can serve as springboards for positive changes and urban transformation in their host cities and region.
Thirty years ago, the city of Brisbane in Australia hosted a Specialised Expo. This was an event in both senses of the word – it was a planned occasion with a specific theme, but it was also a pivotal moment – a point from which things were never the same again for the host city. Expo 88 left an obvious physical impression on the cityscape, but there were more subtle legacies too; including a shift in the lifestyles and cultural habits of local people. This article explains the significance of Brisbane’s Expo and outlines the reasons why other cities should pay attention to this example of Expo-led urban change.
There is no greater priority at this time than cultivating a more sustainable way of living to ensure viability of our natural resources for future generations. It is a mission of universal importance; a priority for Dubai, the UAE, our region and the entire world.
Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG) designed the Expo 2017 Master Plan and associated 33 buildings considering the designated theme, “Future Energy,” a concept that is aimed at finding ways to achieve qualitative changes in the energy sector, primarily for the development of alternative sources of energy and transportation.
Finding sustainable energy supplies and a solution to these concerns ensures economic growth and improves social standards while reducing the burden on the environment.
Formal planning for pre-Expo construction and post-Expo use of the site in Lisbon is notable for its close attention to long-term use of the site. The layout of the Expo site for Lisbon related in many ways to the vision for the larger metropolitan area. Overarching goals focused on an integrated development that was multi-use and accessible to the wider urban area. The Expo was viewed as a tool for urban regeneration at the metropolitan scale.
Expo 1998 Lisbon distinguishes itself from previous Expos by careful attention to detail at the site. Exhibits that illustrated the concept of sustainability and emphasised the need to preserve the oceans for future generation were part of many pavilions. Water was reflected throughout the site and from a design standpoint was well-integrated into the public space of the Expo.
Celebrating the 500th anniversary of Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India, Expo 1998 was a transformational event for Lisbon, gathering over 10 million visitors under the theme “Oceans – A Heritage for the Future”. The Expo was a key moment not only for its journey into the theme, but also for the urban redevelopment it propelled, leaving Lisbon with a brand new district in the form of Parque das Nações. Twenty years after the event, In Focus publishes a three-part series by Laura Huntoon, originally published on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the BIE, looking back at the innovative and sustainable ways in which the Expo was organised, and how its programming addressed a key theme of the time.