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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.

© Atomium. Christophe Licoppe

La Belgique célèbre cette année le 60e anniversaire de l’Exposition Universelle de 1958. Dans un entretien au BIE, Henri Simons, directeur de l’Atomium et du ADAM - Brussels Design Museum, explique pourquoi cet événement a marqué plusieurs générations et engendre aujourd’hui encore un réel engouement.

In Focus

  • Entretien avec Henri Simons, directeur de l’Atomium et du ADAM - Brussels Design Museum

Bridge Pavilion

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.

Third Millennium Bridge

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.

Austria'a Pavilion at Expo 1958 Brussels

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.

Laterna Magika

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.

Viva Hemisfair! Credit: HemisFair

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.

Artists & Robots at the Astana Contemporary Art Center, Expo 2017

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.

Ponte Vasco da Gama. Credit: Nazzareno Agostinelli

On 29 March 1998, the Vasco da Gama bridge was opened in the Portuguese capital, marking a key step in the modernisation of Lisbon as it geared up to host Expo 1998. Named after Vasco da Gama, who 500 years earlier became the first European to reach India by sailing around Africa, the 17km structure celebrates today its 20th anniversary.

The bridge was officially inaugurated by President Jorge Sampaio in a ceremony marked by a military band and flyover, following an earlier event in which 16,000 Lisboetas gathered on a 5km section of the bridge to have lunch at the “world’s longest dining table.”

Celebrating 60 years of Expo 1958 and its iconic Atomium

Brussels begins celebrations this weekend to mark the 60th anniversary of its favourite symbol and Expo 1958 icon, the Atomium.

The unique and impressive structure in Belgium's capital will be host to a range of events and activities to mark the special anniversary, allowing residents of Brussels and visitors to discover the impressive heritage of Expo 1958.

Official Participant Awards: which pavilions were in the spotlight at Expo 2012 Yeosu?

As Expo 2017 Astana draws to a close, the international participants are eager to learn who will win the Expo 2017 Official Participant Awards. At each Expo, an international jury assesses different aspects of the pavilions, recognising those that stand out.

At the last Specialised Expo, which took place in Yeosu (Republic of Korea) in 2012, a total of 24 gold, silver and bronze awards were handed out, split into four different categories according to the size of the country’s participation. Within each category, each pavilion could receive awards based on their development of the “Oceans and Living Coast” theme, or based on their creative display.

50 years later: the French national day at Expo ‘67

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the French national day at Expo 1967 Montreal, a World Expo with the theme “Terre des Hommes” (Man and His World) which focused on mankind’s progress and innovations.

The theme of the French pavilion was “Tradition and Invention”. Among the exhibitions that were showcased were a model of the bathysphere “Archimede”, a colour television manufactured in France, and objects from Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s marine expeditions.

Astana Welcomes Placido Domingo’s “Operalia”

The World Opera Competition 2017 -“Operalia”, begins today in Astana as part of the wide-ranging cultural programme within the framework of Specialised Expo 2017. The prestigious annual event, which takes place in famous cities around the globe, will take place for the very first time in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, from 24-29 July, in the Astana Opera.

Founded in 1993 by renowned opera conductor and director, Plácido Domingo, “Operalia” is considered the opera equivalent of the Academy Awards, and is open to young artists aged 18-32 years old, who get an opportunity to benefit from Domingo’s personal experience and expertise. At Expo 2017 Astana, the 25th edition of the competition will feature 40 contestants from 17 countries, and will give four singers from Kazakhstan - soprano Maria Mudryak, tenor Damir Saduakassov and baritones Stanislav Li and Rasul Zharmambetov, the opportunity to represent their country at home.

A week at Expo 2017 #7: Building the Future, Saving the Planet

An Expo is a unique place where we can learn from each other in a spirit of cooperation, and, where we can learn with each other, in a spirit of innovation. Expo 2017 Astana is a platform of education and exchange on “Future Energy”, where this complex subject is addressed by continued debate through meetings, conferences, forums and round table discussions.

The Future Energy Forum (FEF) is a key working event of Expo 2017, hosting a series of 12 dedicated conferences between 29 June and 5 September. Organised in the Expo Congress Centre under the banner of “Building the Future, Saving the Planet”, FEF provides a platform for the discussion of the key energy challenges highlighted within the Expo’s national, international and thematic pavilions. It is thus an opportunity to tackle strategic priorities and the key energy challenges that the planet faces: climate change, poverty, water access, and biodiversity.

80 years since its Expo 1937 debut, Guernica’s message still resonates

Following its first appearance to the world at World Expo 1937 Paris, Pablo Picasso’s legendary “Guernica” has continued to captivate hearts and minds as one of the most powerful anti-war statement in the world.

Guernica’s first public appearance dates from 12 July 1937, when the Republican Spanish pavilion was inaugurated at the “International Exhibition of Arts and Technology in Modern Life” in Paris.

A week at Expo 2017 #6: Energy for All

The seventh UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), ensuring “access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”, is a global economic and social priority, as reflected by one of the three subthemes of Expo 2017 Astana: “Energy for All”.

In his opening message to Expo 2017, UN Secretary-General António Guterres reiterated the fact that “Energy is vital to our lives [...] Access to energy helps children to study at night, farmers to grow more crops and hospitals to provide better care.”

A week at Expo 2017 #5: An immersion into Future Energy

How can exhibits captivate minds and educate a large and varied audience on the subject of “Future Energy”? As a Specialised Expo, Expo 2017 Astana brings the challenges and issues around its theme to a large audience, an objective that is achieved through architecture, forums, meetings, displays and, importantly, by an array of techniques and new technologies that offer deep and dynamic experiences with the Expo 2017’s “Future Energy” theme.

Interaction is key. In Austria’s pavilion, visitors have the chance to interact with the exhibits themselves to measure the real power of energy by using their own bodies to produce energy. This involves pulling weights to spin turbines and pedalling on bikes to generate enough energy to power different screens, culminating in an impressive musical performance.

A week at Expo 2017 #4:  Every day is a show

The vast cutural and entertainment programme is a major part of the Expo experience, with visitors spoiled for choice among the different shows, performances and spectacles on offer. Expo 2017 Astana proposes thousands of cultural activities throughout its three-month duration, with something for everyone.

Every night on the Expo site, the Amphitheatre hosts concerts from Kazakh and international artists and musicians, drawing crowds to a host of celebrations. The Expo Amphitheatre has already welcomed local star Dimash Kudaibergen and is to feature Dutch DJ Afrojack next week, among many others such as Steve Aoki on 29 July and the MTV Festival on 19 August. Additionally, numerous other venues in town are also hosting concerts such as Black Star on 8 July last night or Eros Ramazzotti next month, on 19 August.

A week at Expo 2017 #3: A journey inside Nur Alem, the nucleus of Expo 2017

Designed by prominent American architect duo Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill, Nur Alem, the stunning sphere at the centre of Expo 2017 Astana, is the largest spherical building in the world with a diameter of 80 metres.

The 5,000m2 ground floor houses the Kazakhstan national pavilion, introducing visitors to the host country and its vision of “Future Energy” firstly via interactive images of Kazakhstan’s geography and cultural traditions.

A week at Expo 2017 #2: Welcome to Astana

The sphere-shaped Kazakhstan pavilion designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill at the centre of the Expo 2017’s site is the latest addition to the city’s bold and diverse architecture, and its intellectual legacy will be a boost to the city’s striking status as contemporary and business capital of the country.

What is perhaps most astounding about Astana is the progress and development the city has made in just two decades. Originally Akmoly, the city was declared capital of Kazakhstan only in 1997, replacing Almaty in the south of the country. As a result, Astana is a planned city, straddling the right and left banks of the Ishim River.

A Week at Expo 2017 #1: A Passport to the Expo

Passports give us the opportunity to cross borders and discover new horizons, while keeping a record of our journeys throughout the world. As the first day of the "Week at Expo 2017" series, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Expo passports and their continued popularity to this day.

Organisers of Expo 1967 Montreal first issued Expo passports as a novel form of ticket, with a separate page for each participating country to encourage visits to as many pavilions as possible. Visitors could either purchase an adult passport, or a youth passport. Shaped like a small booklet, these “passports” were sold at the entrance to the Expo site, and have since become one of the most popular souvenirs for visitors who want to keep track of all the different pavilions they visit.

Interbau, 60 years later: Hansaviertel as the City of Tomorrow

Sixty years ago, on 6 July 1957, the “Interbau” international building exhibition – Expo 1957 Berlin - opened its doors to the public in Berlin's Hansaviertel neighbourhood. The Expo transformed the area into the popular district it is today, leaving behind a variety of masterpieces of modernist architecture.

Today, Hansaviertel is a central residential district and a preserved architectural and garden ensemble of West German post-war modernity. The entire collection of buildings constructed as part of Interbau received landmark status in 1995, and it is still considered as an illustrative example of mid-20th century architecture.

Future Energy: Getting transportation on track

Fossil-fuel dependant transport accounts for nearly one quarter of worldwide CO2 emissions linked to energy, and the trend is set to increase as access to different forms of transport becomes more widespread in developing countries. This raises questions over the future of mobility: how will people move around cities, around countries, and across oceans in the future, in a sustainable manner?

Looking to the future, a potentially revolutionary form of transport is set to be available for visitors to Expo 2020 Dubai, the next World Expo. According to developers’ plans, an integrated Hyperloop system will be ready by the opening of the Expo to transport people and goods at supersonic speeds between Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Energy for Life: Building a Sustainable Food-Energy Relationship

The intertwined relationship between food and energy is a fundamental question when considering future energy and future food supplies. The cultivation, processing, storage, packaging and transport of food accounts for a major share of energy consumption worldwide, of which an estimated 79% comes from fossil fuels.

Expo 2015 Milan – organised around the theme “Feeding the Planet: Energy for Life” – was an opportunity to address this challenge, which by its very nature impacts all countries and all people. The Expo was a platform for participating countries to exhibit the latest technologies regarding the production and consumption of food, and dealing with food waste. Participants thus demonstrated how feeding a growing population can be achieved in a sustainable manner, for example by economizing on land use and minimizing the energy-intensive practices of large-scale agriculture.

Energy efficiency: Greener City, Better Life

Strategically-placed vegetation can cut energy consumption by up to 50% and play a crucial role in filtering atmospheric pollutants in a city. Urban greening – planting living, green walls or roofs, wherever possible in urban spaces and cities - has become the trend for overcrowded cities, seeking to conserve energy and reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

The concept, which has been around for over 2,000 years, combines nature and architecture, and has tremendous potential for improving energy efficiency in a city.

Self-sufficient living: learning lessons from Oikos

Imagine a house that generates all of its own energy, collects its own water and efficiently manages its waste system - an autonomous house. The technology for such self-sufficient homes, able to meet the pressing energy demands of the future, is available today, by using a combination of alternative energy sources such as geothermal energy, solar panels, wind turbines and hydropower.

A fully functional, working model of a self-sufficient home was showcased in the Oikos pavilion (meaning “house” in Greek) at Expo 2008 Zaragoza. Putting innovative solutions to the use of reduced energy and water consumption encapsulated the theme of the Expo – “Water and Sustainable Development.”

Unlocking hydrogen’s potential: Future Energy from fuel cells

Fuel cells, a promising and virtually limitless energy source that can be used for various applications including transportation, portable appliances and stationary installations, were first discovered in 1839 by Sir William Grove. However, it is only in the past two decades that the technology has become a viable and practical solution. With water as its only by-product, fuel cell technology is in line to become one of the key next-generation solutions for Future Energy.

This forward-looking and eco-friendly technology, which involves an electrochemical process where hydrogen and oxygen are converted into water to produce electricity, was showcased at Expo 2005 Aichi in Japan via a fleet of specially designed buses.

From Seville to Dubai: leading the way in Sustainable Architecture

Energy consumption in buildings accounts for over one third of final energy consumption globally. The OECD estimates that buildings account for more than 40% of energy consumption in developed countries, largely through electricity use.

Fortunately, buildings have the capacity to make a significant contribution to a more sustainable future, if energy-saving methods are integrated into their design. An early example of sustainable construction was showcased at Expo 1992 Seville, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The United Kingdom’s pavilion at Expo 1992 embodied the concept of energy self-sufficiency by combining avant-garde architecture with the capacity to generate renewable energy such as solar power.

Terre des hommes: 50 years of Expo 67

On 28 April 1967, the gates to Expo 1967 Montreal opened to the public, marking the start of a new and modern era for the city. The Expo, which celebrated 100 years of Canadian Confederation and 325 years since Montreal’s founding, was a major accomplishment for the city and for Canada.

During the six months that the Expo was open, 50 million people passed through the turnstyles, eager to discover the latest innovations and explore different interpretations of the theme “Man and His World” (in French: Terre des hommes).

Beaming power from Space: Seattle’s Solar Satellite

Extreme weather conditions and rising global temperatures are leading researchers to reconsider unconventional solutions such as Space-Based Solar Power (SBSP), as envisioned by scientists since the 1960s. This would be the perfect solution to climate change because solar power captured in outer space would not be vulnerable to poor weather, have zero greenhouse gas emissions and be unaffected by day and night cycles, unlike 23% of current incoming solar energy.

This untapped potential for Space-Based Solar Power was revealed when Telstar 1 (the world’s first active communication satellite) was used to beam scenes from Expo 1962 Seattle and transmit the first intercontinental television broadcast. The sphere satellite was powered by 3,600 solar cells and weighed over 77 kilos. It was a joint project by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and the British and French governments, which broadcasted a panoramic view of the striking Space Needle and other interesting sights and sounds from the Expo.

Atomium: The Beginning of the Nuclear era

Nuclear energy is one of the largest contributors to electricity production across the world, and its importance is not set to diminish in the near future, despite the controversy that has always surrounded it.

The glorious nuclear future envisioned in the mid-20th century, with bountiful, cheap and safe energy supplies, is not exactly the reality of today. However, humanity’s continuous need for safe and affordable energy means that the search to unlock the power of the atom remains relevant to this day.

From dream to reality: Seville celebrates 25 years of Expo 1992

A quarter of a century after Seville welcomed the world for World Expo 1992, the Andalusian capital is gearing up to celebrate the anniversary of the event that was a watershed moment in the history of the city, the region and the country. With the support of Mayor Juan Espada, a 25th anniversary commission will, in partnership with Legado Expo Sevilla, organise over 30 activities between April and October 2017 to commemorate the Expo and to actively promote its legacy.

Marking the arrival of Spain as a democratic, European and proudly diverse country, Expo 1992 gathered 108 countries and international organisations, and received 42 million visits, higher than Spain’s population at the time. Organised under the theme “The Age of Discovery”, the Expo celebrated 500 years of Christopher Columbus’ famed departure from the city prior to the European discovery of the Americas. Seville has good reason to celebrate Expo 1992, an event that modernised the city, brought worldwide attention to Andalusia, and was a catalyst for the development of La Cartuja and the wider region.

Energy-thirsty: the Water-Energy Nexus at Expo 1939 Liège

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.

Electricity and Domestic Bliss at Expo 1939 New York

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%.

The House of Tomorrow: Pioneering Sustainable Design

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.

Transmitting power: from the Million-Volt Transformer to Supergrids

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.

Powering Devices: from the Hubbell Plug and beyond

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.

The Apotheosis of Electricity at Expo 1900 Paris

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.

Illuminating the White City: Tesla vs. Edison at Expo 1893 Chicago

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.

Montreal to celebrate 50 years of Expo 1967 at its Nuit Blanche

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.

Aristide Bergès: Water as “White Coal” at Expo 1889 Paris

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.

Expo 1878 Paris: The revelation of Sun Power

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.

Zénobe Gramme’s electrifying discovery at Expo 1873 Vienna

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.

No small beer: brewing success at Expo 1889 Paris

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.

Expo 1867 Paris: Engineering the future beyond steam

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.

From Past to Future Energy: innovation fuelling Expos, 1851-2017

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.

30 November 1936: the destruction of the Crystal Palace

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.

Arcturus: the celestial beam that lit up an Expo

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.

Osaka’s Tower of the Sun to reopen for weekend

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.

Four-year renovation project to brighten up Le Grand Palais

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.

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