Every Expo is a one-of-a-kind experience. Yet there are things they have in common that make the case for why everyone should go to one.
With Expo 2017 Astana coming up, here are my top reasons to go:
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.
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).
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.
On April 21, 1962 - 55 years ago - Seattle’s Century 21 Exposition, also called the Seattle World’s Fair, opened its gates. My first memory of the fair dates from late 1961 when my Cub Scout group went to the top of a downtown office building. From there we could see the Space Needle rising—its iconic saucer top was just taking shape. We boys—I was eight years old at the time—were thrilled.
The theme of Century 21 was exactly one to inspire us: “Man in the Space Age.” Our small city in the far Northwest of America was becoming ground zero for the New Frontier. Science fiction was becoming reality.
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.
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.
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.
Expo 1988 Brisbane was a runaway success and a game changer for the City of Brisbane. Attracting more than 18 million visitors - more than the total population of Australia at the time - and visited by numerous Heads of State and opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Expo, with its friendly furry platypus mascot "Expo Oz" and theme song "Together, We'll Show the World" was 1788-1988 Bicentennial Australia's largest and most successful event, proudly presenting a modern and brash Brisbane to the world stage.
But what about what happened after Expo, and its "Post-Expo" legacy?
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.
I got a call while on break in Hawaii on the way home from Expo 1985 Tsukuba where I had served as U.S. Pavilion Exhibits Director asking me to be U.S. Pavilion Director for Expo 1986 Vancouver. I accepted and the family rerouted to Vancouver. Our two sons who had spent a year living in Japan now had to adjust to living in Vancouver. Arriving there in November of 1985, the Expo was already under construction and at that particular stage it echoed the appearance of Tsukuba coming down. It was a kind of déjà vu experience and a reminder of how close together Expos had been occurring.
Expo 86 took place between 2 May and 13 October 1986, and as it turned out this would be the last Expo in North America, although Calgary made a failed bid for 2005, and Edmonton for 2017, among others.
After serving as U.S. Pavilion Exhibits Director at Expo 1984 in New Orleans, I left the Commerce Department and joined the U.S. Information Agency as Exhibits Director for the U.S. Pavilion at Expo 1985 in the Japanese city of Tsukuba. Our family, my wife and two sons aged five and one arrived in December 1984. The theme of the expo was "Dwellings and Surroundings - Science and Technology for Man at Home" and our pavilion took Artificial Intelligence as its theme. Expo 1985 ran from 17 March to 16 September. It was ranked a huge success with 20,334,727 visitors attending and 111 countries participating, plus an impressive array of 18 corporate pavilions featuring state of the art technology including robots and giant screen presentations.
The 3,000m2 US Pavilion at Expo 1985 was in a generic building provided by the organisers, situated on a 5,000m2 plot at the north-western corner of the Expo grounds. It consisted of two courtyards, two plazas and three separate buildings: Theme Pavilion, Theatre and Corporate Pavilion. The larger and taller theme pavilion to the right and the smaller Corporate Pavilion to the left were both housed under cable tensioned polymer fabric roofs. Between them was a Trapezoid Theatre where “To Think”, a 15-minute film by Joseph Aloysius Becker, was shown. The corporate building which also included a restaurant and a gift shop housed exhibits by Texas Instruments, DuPont, Polaroid and TRW. The idea of separating out the corporate section was new to our pavilions and worked well. The Federal budget for the pavilion was US $9,535,962. Attendance totalled five million visitors.
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.
The 1949 Bicentennial International Exposition of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, also known as the “Festival of Peace,” was held during the presidency of Dumarsais Estimé (1946-1950). Sanctioned by the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), this International Exposition celebrated the 200th anniversary of the founding of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. It also represented an effort by Dumarsais Estimé’s government to beautify and modernize the capital to encourage tourism and international investment.
The exposition area, known as the Cité de l’Exposition or Cité Dumarsais Estimé, created a new waterfront area for tourists and locals to enjoy. Palm trees lined the principal artery named after former United States president Harry S. Truman (1945-1953). The architecture and visual art in the Cité de l’Exposition featured the work of Haitians and foreigners including Albert Mangonès, August F. Schmiedigen, and Jason Seley. Participants included the United States, France, Italy, Belgium, Spain, San Marino, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Canada, Venezuela, Mexico, Argentina, Guatemala, Chile, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Jamaica. Pan American Airways, Vatican City, the United Nations, and the Organization of American States (OAS) participated in the festivities as well.
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.
New Orleans ’84; the Louisiana World Exposition. Coming just two years after Knoxville, work on the U.S. Pavilion for New Orleans Expo had already begun before Knoxville’s run had ended. In my role as Exhibits Director for the US pavilion, I was responsible for coordinating the design, fabrication and installation of the exhibits and production of a 3-D film.
By negotiation with the expo organising committee, the Expo would provide the 9,290m2 building that housed the US pavilion, valued at approximately $10 million, and the U.S. Department of Commerce would provide the exhibits and operations with a matching budget. The building was designed, built and paid for by the fair corporation and owner, Louisiana World Exposition, Inc.
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.
Si l'Expo « Century 21 », qui a eu lieu à Seattle en 1962 était principalement destinée à valoriser la recherche scientifique américaine et son hégémonie dans le domaine de la conquête spatiale, elle fût aussi le lieu de tournage d'une comédie musicale produite par la Metro Goldwyn Mayer avec pour tête d'affiche le célèbre acteur et chanteur Elvis Presley. En effet, l'intrigue de «Blondes, brunes, rousses » (« It happened at the World's Fair » en anglais), réalisé par Norman Taurog, se déroule sur le site de l'Exposition universelle de Seattle dans un décor à la fois très futuriste mais aussi représentatif de la société américaine des années 60'. On y suit les péripéties de deux amis, Danny et Mike, qui, se retrouvant criblés de dettes, décident de se rendre à l'Exposition universelle de Seattle pour trouver du travail.
L'équipe de tournage arrive à Seattle le 5 Septembre 1962, alors que l'Exposition bat son plein depuis 5 mois déjà. Cette date n'a pas été choisie au hasard puisque c'est précisément le jour de la rentrée des classes. Le réalisateur cherchait à éviter au maximum des scènes d'hystérie provoquées par des adolescents fans du « King ». Malheureusement pour lui, les jeunes des environs chercheront par tous les moyens à approcher leur idole. Les anecdotes de fans ne manquent d'ailleurs pas : des évanouissements en série, des bribes de conversation échangées, ou encore pour Sue Waters, une jeune fille de 18 ans plus chanceuse, quatre rendez-vous galants avec Elvis.
In 1999, 2004, 2009, and now 2014, I've had the opportunity to experience an Expo city within a year of its debut on the world stage. In all four cases (Hannover's Expo 2000, Aichi's Expo 2005, Shanghai's Expo 2010, and Milan's Expo 2015), you get the feeling that the city doesn't quite know what to expect just yet. In all four cases, much of what's going to happen in the next year is still a mystery. What is this big event that has been in the planning on construction stage for years?
One of the challenges for Expo organizers is communicating to the public what to expect. The organizers of Expo 2015 have taken the step of creating the Expo Gate, a preview center that's open to the public. The temporary landmark, created by Scandurra Studio, is situated just outside Sforzesco Castle, which was part of the site of the 1906 Universal Exposition. It will also serve as a ticket center, conveniently located in the center of town.
I'm often called upon to explain what world's fairs are and what kind of impact they can have on a city, a region, or a country. Here in North America, that can be a daunting task because generations have now grown up not having had the chance to experience a world's fair firsthand.
Not surprisingly, people focus on the economics of world's fairs. Do they make money?
When writing parts 1 and 2 about the connections between Walt Disney, the company he founded, and world's fairs, I hadn't planned on writing a part 3, but apparently, the story won't end just yet.
Every world's fair since 1984 has had a mascot, a character designed to anthropomorphize the ideals of the expo and appeal to younger guests. As you might imagine, it's a challenging and rewarding task and the most successful mascots go on to embody the expo and its ideals long after the event's closing day.
Walt Disney's greatest contribution to the world of world's fairs was at an event that wasn't officially recognized by the BIE, but nonetheless has gone on to become an important celebration and beloved memory for many in the United States: the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair.
Because the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair wasn't officially recognized by the BIE, participation by foreign countries was greatly reduced. To remedy that gap in content, the organizers chose to rely on corporations and US states more than would typically be done. At the same time, Walt Disney was looking for opportunities to connect with American corporations and let them "foot the bill" for his own artistic and technological experimentation.
I’ve written before about how many Americans are unaware that expos (or “world’s fairs,” as we tend to call them here) still happen. Similarly, the millions of people who live in countries that have hosted expos in the last couple of decades are sometimes unaware of America’s contributions to the medium throughout history. Walt Disney’s story is emblematic about how 20th Century United States history and world’s fair history are intertwined.
I see it as part of my mission to keep world’s fairs and the United States from drifting apart. Fortunately, working at the Walt Disney Family Museum, I have the privilege of interacting regularly with other folks who are also passionate about the power of places.
I've mentioned in this blog before that groups in Houston, San Francisco, and Minneapolis-St. Paul have looked at finding ways to get the United States back into the BIE so that cities can bid for Expo 2022, Expo 2023, or Expo 2025, but parallel efforts are also under way in Canada.
After Edmonton's bid efforts for 2017 were killed off by Canada's federal government, interests in Toronto, headed by City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, started looking at Expo 2025. Last year, those efforts seemed to have been killed by the Canadian federal government's decision to discontinue its membership in the BIE, but this month, it looks like there's a renewed push for Expo 2025 and an effort to keep Canada in the BIE.
The organizers of Expo 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan are asking the public to vote for which of seven logos will be used to express the identity of Central Asia's first world's fair. Here are the seven choices.
In my last entry, I talked about the state of expos in the United States. It’s a difficult topic to address to an American audience since there are a number of big issues here. These issues include: the lack of US participation in two recent foreign expositions, the lower quality of the presentations that did happen, the lack of transparency behind those efforts, as well as the lack of any world’s fairs on US soil in nearly 30 years. This is made even more difficult because the vast majority of Americans are unaware that expos still exist. Many younger people have never even heard of the medium – no matter if you call them “expos" (as most of the world does) or “world’s fairs” (as most Americans do).
Filmmaker Jeffrey Ford started wondering a few years ago what ever happened to world’s fairs. They inspired generations and he began to wonder, after a chance purchase of old View-Master Reels, whatever happened to the medium. The film begins by documenting his own journey to answer his own question: What happened to the world’s fair?
I’ve spent a lifetime studying the history of world’s fairs and I’m often asked which expo is my favorite. It’s always been a difficult thing to answer, but in recent years, I realized there really has only been one answer. My favorite expo is always the next one. Living in the United States, that’s become a challenge as of late since we haven’t had a world’s fair in North America since 1986.
When I was just fifteen, growing up in Atlanta, I was fortunate to live just hours from Knoxville, Tennessee which hosted the Knoxville International Energy Exposition, better known locally as the 1982 World’s Fair. Two years later, I went to the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition in New Orleans. In college, I saved up money for a cheap flight to Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada to see Expo ’86. I was clearly hooked on expos at an early age.