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Japan's pavilion at Specialised Expo 2008 Zaragoza. Image credit: Alejandro Gustan

Japan’s participation in Expos is driven by three objectives. The first is to increase the significance of these events in maintaining the international order, and helping Japan to actively participate in the realisation of a peaceful world. The second is to communicate Japan's distinctive culture, traditions, history, nature, and technology to the world. The third is to help achieve the Expo’s visitor target by making the pavilion a popular destination thanks to its appealing design and production. In doing so, we hope to increase the number of Japan fans.

Expo 2017 Astana and the inauguration of a vibrant mixed-use community

Planning approaches can vary as much as architectural approaches, just like any process that aims for a controlled outcome. While urban design and urban planning are blanket terms for the strategic organisation and growth projection of complex urban entities like districts, neighbourhoods, cities, and countries, designing a plan for an Expo, and for its legacy, proves to be a distinct and elaborate endeavour.

Expo 1998 Lisbon: the impact of a planned legacy

The organisation of mega-events has been seen as a major driver for urban change, and an opportunity for implementing city spatial strategies, for promoting urban development of certain areas and for transforming the image of a city. Expos in particular have a long history of transforming urban landscapes with memorable buildings and districts that last in history. But the idea of planning for the long-lasting effects of these events is a more recent concern.

The city of Osaka has an abundance of waterfront spaces. Image credit: Osaka City Government

Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai is a key national project that will make its grand opening on 13 April 2025. As many as 150 countries and international organisations are expected to participate, and it is projected that over 20 million visitors will attend the event. This occasion will surely grant riveting opportunities for Osaka as the host city. As Mayor of Osaka at the time of writing, I would like here to convey the story of Osaka’s journey over time, its preparations as the host of the next World Expo, and its ongoing development in the future legacy.

The Atomium was the centrepiece of Expo 1958 Brussels. Image by courtesy of Arno Drucker

‘After the Expo, everything was modern,’ still is a lasting catchphrase in the popular history of Expo 1958 Brussels in Belgium. Architecture, however, had already turned modern long before 1958. It might sound odd today, but the organisers of the World Expo had announced the Expo’s architecture as ‘not so much modern, but twenty years ahead of its time.’ Moreover, while progressivist architecture journals, both Belgian and foreign, expressed their general appreciation for the overall rapprochement they observed between modern architecture and the public, they also did not hide their disappointment on the average state of architecture at the Expo. The Belgian CIAM delegation even declared that the architecture of Expo 1958 was “a great fiasco.” How can this Expo then be considered a laboratory for architectural and engineering experiment?

Expo pavilions: The lasting impact of the ephemeral

The concept of the ephemeral has been changing throughout history. It is associated with the brief, the fleeting, the passing or the momentary. The opposite of permanent. But, is it really so? Already in pre-Socratic Greece the relationship between the ephemeral and the permanent was analysed by philosophers. Heraclitus of Ephesus held that opposites are not opposites, but form a harmonic unit, constantly changing. One exists as a consequence of the other. They need each other in order to exist. What persists through change is change itself. “All things flow, everything is in motion and nothing lasts forever. Therefore, we cannot descend twice into the same river, for when I descend into the river a second time, neither the river nor I are the same.”1

Image credit: Expo '70 Commemorative Park

World Expo 1970, hosted by the city of Suita, Osaka, in Japan and organised around the theme of the “Progress and Harmony for Mankind,” was the first World Expo held in an Asian country, and attracted a record 64 million visitors. Through its integration of advanced technology, immersive multi-media environments, and dazzling architecture, Expo 1970 Osaka projected Japan as a simulation-site for a future society. Indeed, many Japanese journalistic accounts heralded the Expo as the City of the Future (mirai no toshi).

Poland's pavilion at Expo 2010 Shanghai

Architecture since the Industrial Revolution has been dependent on pioneering building techniques and technological innovations. Their development requires experimentation, usually too risky and economically indeterminate in everyday design. World Expos, nominally used for self-presentation of nations’ achievements, have become a laboratory for experimentations thanks to their representation, financial resources and innovative approaches.

Photographie : P. O'Doyé (colorisée)

Le 11 juillet 1938, le jour où Howard Hughes (1905-1976) bat le record de traversée de l’Atlantique, Jean Zay (1904-1944) préside la cérémonie de réouverture du Palais de la découverte. Qu’il survive à l’Exposition Universelle de 1937 avait été le vœu dès le début non seulement de ses fondateurs, mais aussi de nombreux responsables de l’événement. Pensé, supervisé et incarné par Jean Perrin (1870-1942), le Palais doit aussi beaucoup à son coordinateur, et premier directeur, André Léveillé (1880-1962).

UAE pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. Image credit: Expo 2020 Dubai LLC (SO)

Expo 2020 Dubai, which received over 24 million visits between 1 October 2021 and 31 March 2022, was defined by the breathtaking architecture of its pavilions. As the legacy district - Expo City Dubai – prepares to reopen to the public on 1 October 2022, discover the fascinating story behind the design of one of its most iconic permanent pavilions – the UAE national pavilion.

Strategies against architecture: multisensory environments in temporary exhibition pavilions

In the 20th century, giants of modernism such as Iannis Xenakis – born 100 years ago this month – and Karlheinz Stockhausen proposed new interpretations of the 19th century concept of Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art). Relying on the latest technologies in the field of sound, light and automation, and often developed in close collaboration with architects, their revision of the total work of art entailed an open set of experiences admitting no privileged viewing position or single message.

The architecture of the Space Needle: embodying Space Age aspirations

By organising World Expo 1962 – which opened to the public 60 years ago this month – Seattle, then a small, globally obscure port city in the far northwest corner of the continental United States, sought to put itself on the map as an ambitious, tech-oriented city with its eye on the future. It wanted to brand itself as a “launch pad” for the Space Age and provide hope in the Cold War era. The Century 21 Exposition was architecturally ambitious, seeking to create a permanent landmark that would, like the Eiffel Tower, create an instantly recognisable symbol. The result was the Space Needle, a futuristic 184-metre-tall observation tower. The goal was to showcase the scenic beauty of the region, symbolise and dramatise Space Age architecture with its “flying saucer” motif, and prove commercially viable with the first free-standing revolving restaurant in the world.

Post-modern volunteering and Expo 2015 Milan

Volunteers are the life and soul of Expos who give their time and energy to welcome visitors, organise events, assist with management and much more. The individuals who engage as volunteers in Expos do so for various reasons, often in reflecting a desire for personal, social or even professional development. Here, the experience of volunteering at Expo 2015 Milan is analysed based on a research study into the more than 5,000 volunteers who contributed to the success of the mega-event.1

Thailand will participate in Expo 2020 Dubai with the theme

Before people throughout the world can see Thailand through their own eyes as a country blessed with pristine seaside destinations, flavoursome cuisine, a truly-beautiful culture, and the Thai hospitality reflecting the country’s famous nickname, “The Land of Smiles”, it requires effort and dedication to communicate our stories. Multifaceted tales about Thailand, such as our culture and arts, our talk-of-the-town happenings, our country’s milestone projects, as well as our Thai livelihood, should be shown and told to the world in as many ways as possible. A fruitful way to promote the Thailand Brand is to take the centre stage at Expos. These extensive International Exhibitions have been serving as an extraordinarily impactful platform for Thailand to communicate with people from around the world and to gain massive brand exposure for over a century until now.

Les Expositions Internationales : une plateforme pour l’image de marque nationale de la Suisse © Présence Suisse

Qu’est-ce qui pousse un touriste à choisir la Suisse comme destination, un client à acheter un produit « Swiss made » (Fabriqué en Suisse), un homme politique à soutenir un accord d’échange ou un étudiant à opter pour une université suisse ? Si les mécanismes de telles décisions sont complexes, un fil conducteur s’en dessine cependant : le « Soft Power », ou la perception d’un pays et la force de ses représentations symboliques.

Depuis quelques décennies, les pays ont pris conscience de la valeur de leurs marques et ont mis en place des stratégies de marketing de marque pour créer, modifier ou renforcer leur image. La Suisse ne fait pas exception dans ce domaine.

New Zealand through the lens of Expos

New Zealand’s participation in Expos has not only given the country a platform to share its culture and values with the world, the stories we have told at Expos have helped to shape New Zealand’s national identity at home. Our presentations at Expos over the years have captured the country’s development, its position in the international community, nation brand and national psyche.

Malaysia: The confluence of heritage, diversity and progress

In a fiercely competitive global marketplace, a nation’s brand image can be one of its highly valued assets or a devitalising disadvantage. How quickly a country is able to find a niche and succinctly position its brand compellingly to a global audience can have a weighing impact on its overall success and future sustainability. Given the rapidly evolving global landscape propelled by technological advancement and changing societal values, Malaysia has proven to be not just an adaptable but also a dynamic player, learning and growing from its engagement with the rest of the world to build its central identity premised on a powerful confluence of heritage, diversity and progress.

L’Algérie et les Expositions Universelles et Spécialisées : histoire d’une fructueuse relation

Depuis son accession à l’indépendance en 1962, l’Algérie compte dix participations aux Expositions Universelles et Spécialisées dont neuf avec pavillon et une (à l’Expo 2005 Aichi au Japon) sans pavillon, la participation ayant été limitée à l’organisation d’un événement culturel de 21 jours. L’Expo 2020 Dubai est une occasion unique de mettre à profit ce moment universel fort pour renouer avec une dynamique d’impulsion. Terre d’opportunités d’investissements par excellence, l’Algérie entend prendre toute sa place au sein de cette dynamique d’affaires et de partenariats innovants qui sera à l’œuvre lors de l’Expo 2020 Dubai.

Expo 2020 Dubai and the quest to sow social capital

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.

From Expo 2010 Shanghai to World Cities Day

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.

Expo 1970 Osaka: the story of Japan’s first World Expo

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.

Experience marketing in building the image of Expo participants

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.

Not just “Better City, Better Life”

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?

Smart mobility: transporting people and goods at Expo 2005 Aichi

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.

Nation branding and World Expos

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.

Expo 2020 Dubai’s Sustainability Pavilion

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.

Public diplomacy through Expos: The nine commandments for Expo pavilions

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.

Expo 2012 Yeosu: Focusing global attention on the oceans and the coasts

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.

Expo 2020 Dubai: The ‘be there’ moment of our time

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.

Changes in the urban landscape of Expo cities

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.

Growing Green Cities


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.

Jackson Park, Chicago © Alix Rogers

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.

Takara Beautilion, World Expo 1970 Osaka. Photo: Sachio Otani, Osaka Prefectural Expo 1970 Commemorative Park Office.

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. 

Tower of the Sun ©M Louis

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.

The making of a city: How Expo 88 changed Brisbane forever

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.

Expo 2020 Dubai

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.

Expo 2017 Astana: Sustainable Legacy in the Planning

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.

Innovations in the Sustainability of the Built Environment at Expo 1998 Lisbon: Part III

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.

Innovations in the Sustainability of the Built Environment at Expo 1998 Lisbon: Part II

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.

Innovations in the Sustainability of the Built Environment at Expo 1998 Lisbon: Part I

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.

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