World's Fair

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For a listing of World Fairs, see List of world's fairs.

A World's Fair is any of various large expositions held since the mid-19th century. The official sanctioning body is the Bureau of International Expositions (usually abbreviated BIE, from the organization's name in French, Bureau International des Expositions). BIE-approved fairs are divided into a number of types: universal, and international or specialized. They usually last for between 3 and 6 months. In addition, countries can hold their own 'fair', 'exposition', or 'exhibition', without BIE endorsement.

Today, world expositions are probably the third largest event in the world in terms of economic and cultural impact, after the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games. They have been organized for more than one and a half centuries - longer in fact than both the (modern) Olympic Games and the World Cup. The first Expo was held in The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London, in 1851 under the title “Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations”. The “Great Exhibition” as it is often called was an idea of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, and was the first international exhibition of manufactured products. As such, it influenced the development of several aspects of society including art and design education, international trade and relations, and even tourism. Also, it was the precedent for the many international exhibitions, later called “World’s Fairs”, which were subsequently held until the present day.

Image:Worlds Fair NYC 1964.jpg
Unisphere From The 1964 World's Fair in NYC a few years after the fair had ended.


[edit] A brief history of the World's Fair

The origin of the idea of World's Fair is found in the French tradition of national exhibitions, that culminated with the French Industrial Exposition of 1844 held in Paris. It was soon followed by other national exhibition in continental Europe, and finally came to London were was held the first real international exhibition.

Since their inception in 1851, the character of world expositions has evolved. Three rough eras can be distinguished: the era of industrialization, the era of cultural exchange, and the era of nation branding.

[edit] Era I - 'Industrialization' 1851 - 1938

The first era could be called the era of 'industrialization' and covered, roughly, the period from 1851 to 1938. In these days, world expositions were especially focused on trade and famous for the display of technological inventions and advancements. World expositions were the platform where the state of the art in science and technology from around the world was brought together. The world expositions of 1851 London, and the 1889 and 1900 Paris exhibitions can be called landmarks in this respect. Inventions such as the telephone were first presented during this era. An important part of the Expo's current image stems from this first era.

[edit] Era II - 'Cultural exchange' 1939 - 1991

The 1939 New York World's Fair and the 1949 Stockholm World's Fair represented a departure from the original focus of the expositions. From then on, Expos became more strongly based on a specific theme of cultural significance, and began to address issues of mankind. They became more future oriented and 'utopian' in scope. Technology and inventions remained important, but no longer as the principal subjects of the Expo. Tomorrow's World (New York, 1939) and Sports (Stockholm, 1949) are examples of these 'new' themes. Cross-cultural dialogue and the exchange of solutions became defining elements of the expos. At Expo 2000 in Hanover, a program called 'Projects Around the World' brought together sustainable initiatives and solutions from all over the globe. Expo 2005 of Aichi was probably the most thematic Expo to date.

[edit] Era III - 'Nation branding' 1992 - present

From Expo '92 in Seville onwards, countries started to use the world expo more widely and more strongly as a platform to improve their national images through their pavilions. Finland, Japan, Canada, France and Spain are cases in point. A large study by Tjaco Walvis called "Expo 2000 Hanover in Numbers" showed that improving national image was the primary participation goal for 73% of the countries at Expo 2000. In a world where a strong national image is a key asset, pavilions became advertising campaigns, and the Expo a vehicle for 'nation branding'. Apart from cultural and symbolic reasons, organizing countries (and the cities and regions hosting them) also utilize the world exposition to brand themselves. According to branding expert Wally Olins, Spain used Expo '92 and the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona in the same year to underline its new position as a modern and democratic country and present itself as a prominent member of the EU and the global community.

Today's world expositions embody elements of all three eras. They present new inventions, facilitate cultural exchange based on a theme, and are used for city, region and nation branding.

[edit] Universal Expositions

Universal Expositions encompass universal themes that affect the full gamut of human experience. These Universal Expos usually have themes based on which pavilions are made to represent the country's opinion on that theme. The theme for the 2005 Expo in Japan was "nature's wisdom". Universal expositions are usually held less frequently than specialized or international expositions because they are more expensive. To distinguish them from lesser fairs, they require total design of pavilion buildings from the ground up. As a result, nations compete for the most outstanding or memorable structure—recent examples include Japan, France, Morocco & Spain at Expo '92. Recent Universal Expositions include Brussels Expo '58, Seattle Expo '62, known as the Century 21 Exposition, Montreal Expo '67, San Antonio HemisFair '68, Osaka Expo '70,Spokane Expo '74, Knoxville, Tennessee Expo '82, New Orleans Expo '84, Vancouver, British Columbia Expo '86, Brisbane Expo '88, Seville Expo '92, and Hanover Expo 2000. The Expo 2005 was held at Aichi Prefecture, Japan. Sometimes pre-fabricated structures are also used to minimize costs for developing countries or for countries from a geographical block to share space (i.e. Plaza of the Americas at Seville '92).

BIE has moved to sanction expos only every five years, starting with the 21st century; with the 1980s and 1990s overflowing with expos back to back, some see this as a means to cut down potential expenditure by participating nations.

The rule may apply to all expos, or it may end up that Universal expositions will be restricted to every five years or so, with International or Specialized expositions in the in-between years for countries wishing to celebrate a special event.

Bids for both the Specialized Expo 2012 and the Universal Expo 2015 have begun to be accepted by the BIE:

  • 2012 (so far) Yeosu, Korea - was candidate city for the Universal Expo 2010,
  • Izmir, Turkey - was host city of the 2005 Summer Universiade.
  • 2015 (so far) Milan, Italy - hosted the Universal Expo 1906, the Football World Cup 1934 and 1990; in Milan there is the worlds biggest Fair.

List of hitherto official world expositions according to the BIE[1]:

The only Universal exposition to be held without BIE approval was the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair. Because that Fair did not comply with BIE rules in place at the time, the sanctioning organization denied the Fair an "official" status. The Fair proceeded without BIE approval and turned to tourism and trade organizations to host national pavilions in lieu of official government sponsorship.

The United States, Japan, Canada, Spain, Belgium, and Australia have hosted the World's Fair in more than one city in different years.

[edit] International or specialized expositions

International expositions are usually united by a common theme—such as Transportation (Vancouver Expo '86) and 'Leisure in the Age of Technology' (Brisbane Expo '88). Such themes are narrower than the worldwide scope of Universal expositions.

Specialized expositions have a narrow theme, such as the International Garden Expositions, held in Osaka, Japan (1990) and Kunming, China (1999), or the Lisbon Expo '98 dedicated to the Oceans.

Specialized and international expositions are usually smaller in scale and cheaper to run for the host committee and participating nations because the architectural fees are lower and they only have to rent the space from the host committee, usually with the pre-fabricated structure already completed. Some say this leads to better creative content as more money can be spent in this area.

Specialized and international are similar in that the host organization provides the rental space to participating countries, as well as the building itself, which is usually pre-fabricated. Countries then have the option of 'adding' their own colours, design etc. to the outside of the pre-fabricated structure and filling in the inside with their own content. One example of this is China, which invariably has chosen to add a Chinese archway in the front of its pre-fabricated pavilions to symbolize the nation (Expo '88, Expo '92, Expo '93).

Additionally, San Francisco's 1894 "Midwinter Fair" was an offshoot of sorts from Chicago's 1893 Exibition.

[edit] After the fair

The majority of the structures are temporary, and are dismantled at the end of the expo. Towers from several of these fairs are notable exceptions. By far the most famous of these is the Eiffel Tower, built for the Exposition Universelle (1889), which is now a symbol of host city Paris. Surprisingly, some contemporary critics wanted the tower dismantled after the fair's conclusion.

Other major structures that were held over from these fairs:

  • The Crystal Palace, from the first World's Fair in London in 1851, chosen because it could be recycled to recoup losses, was such a success that it was moved and intended to be permanent, only to be destroyed by a fire (of its contents) in 1936.
  • The 1876 Centennial Exposition's main building still in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia.
  • The main buildings of Expo '98, in Lisbon, were completely integrated in the city itself.
  • In Brussels, the Atomium still stands at the site of the 1958 exposition. It is an 165 billion times enlarged Iron-Atom shaped building.

Other outstanding exceptions:

  • The remains of Expo '29 in Seville where the 'Plaza de España' forms part of a large park and forecourt, and many of the pavilions have become offices for Consulate-Generals.
  • An elevated railways with metro frequency was built for Milan '06. It linked the fair to the city centre. It was dismantled in the 20's.
  • The Aquarium of Milano Expo '06 was built for the fair and after 100 years is still open and was recently renovated.
  • The ICOH (International Commission on Occupational Health), was settled in Milan during the Expo '06 and had the first congress in the Expo pavillions. In June 2006 the ICOH celebrated the first century of life in Milan.
  • The pavilions of Expo '92 in Seville had been reconverted into a technological square and a theme park.
  • The M. H. de Young Museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park was a survivor of the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition until it was replaced with a larger building.
  • The rebuilt Palace of Fine Arts is all that remains from the 1915 San Francisco Panama-Pacific International Exposition. This can be seen on the fair grounds near the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • The Space Needle in Seattle was the symbol of the 1962 World's Fair, and the US pavilion from that fair became the Pacific Science Center. The monorail ran daily for many years, until an accident in November 2005 caused it to close for most of the next year when it resumed daily operation.
  • San Antonio kept intact the Tower of the Americas, the Institute of Texan Cultures and the Convention Center from HemisFair '68.
  • Among the structures still standing from Expo '67 in Montreal are Moshe Safdie's Habitat 67, Buckminster Fuller's American pavilion (now the Biosphère), and the French pavilion (now the Casino de Montréal).
  • The Sunsphere remains extant from the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville.
  • The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is housed in the last remaining building of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, which had been the Palace of Fine Arts. The intent or hope was to make all Columbian structures permanent, but most of the structures burned, possibly the result of arson during the Pullman Strike. The fair's only other known remaining building is the Norway pavilion, a small house located at a museum in Wisconsin.
  • The World Heritage-listed Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne was constructed for the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, and is another example.
  • The Skyneedle remains from expo 88 in Brisbane, Australia
  • A particular case is the EUR quarter in Rome, built for a World's Fair planned for 1942, was never used for its intended purpose, because of World War II, and today hosts various offices, governmental or private, and some museums.
  • The "American Theatre" on the Brussels Expo in 1958 is now frequently used as a television studio by the VRT.

Some World's Fair sites became (or reverted to) parks incorporating some of the expo elements, such as:

Some pavilions have been moved overseas intact:

Many exhibitions and rides created by Walt Disney and his WED Enterprises company for the 1964 New York World's Fair (which was held over into 1965) were moved to Disneyland after the closing of the Fair. Many of the rides, including "it's a small world", "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln", and "Carousel of Progress" (since moved to the Walt Disney World Resort and updated), are still in operation.

Disney had contributed so many exhibits to the New York fair in part because the corporation had originally envisioned a "permanent World's Fair" at the Flushing site. That concept instead came to fruition with the Disney theme park Epcot, an extension of the Walt Disney World Resort, near Orlando, Florida. Epcot has many of the characteristics of a typical Universal Exposition: national pavilions, as well as exhibits concerning technology and/or the future, along with more typical amusement-park rides. Meanwhile, several of the 1964 attractions, relocated to Disneyland, have been duplicated at the Walt Disney World Resort.

By far the best way to keep the many pavilions is to relocate them. However, many were found unimportant and allowed by the host to be demolished. Now and then the host decides not to demolish but to buy the pavilions with serious discount and find new functions for them. A (very short and incomplete) list of buildings which were moved within the hosting country:

  • The Brussels Expo '58 relocated many pavillions within Belgium: the pavillion of Jacques Chocolats moved to the town of Diest to house the new town swimming pool. Another pavillion was relocated to Willebroek and has been used as dance hall Carré [2] ever since. One smaller pavillion still stands on the impressive boulevard towards the Atomium: the restaurant "Salon 58" in the pavillion of Comptoir Tuilier. For more information on remaining pavillions in Brussels and Belgium, check the following site: [3].

Occasionally other bits and pieces of the Fairs remain. In the New York subway system, signs directing people to Flushing Meadows, Queens remain from the 1964-5 event. In the Montreal subway at least one tile artwork of its theme, "The World of Man", remains. Also, a seemingly endless supply of souvenir items from Fair visits can be found, and in the United States, at least, can often be bought at garage or estate sales. Many of these events also produced postage stamps and commemorative coins. The 1904 Olympic Games were held in conjunction with the St. Louis Fair, although no particular tie-in seems to have been made.

[edit] USA membership

The USA had its membership of the BIE withdrawn in 2002. The cause was the non-allocation of funds by the U.S. Congress for two years.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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World's Fair

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