As Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai marks the one-year countdown until its grand opening on 13 April 2025, all eyes are turned towards the development of the 155-hectare Expo site, where construction work is at full pace. The site’s overall characteristics can already be seen, most notably the 2-kilometer Grand Ring that is now almost 80 per cent complete. Sou Fujimoto, the Expo Site Design Producer and architect behind this structure, shares his insights with the BIE.

What was your motivation in designing the site concept?

Sou Fujimoto: When creating the overall concept for the Expo site, our priority was ‘unity in diversity’. The messages and significance of Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai will be the value of having countries from all over the world spend six months together, a place where diverse worlds are connected, a future created through real encounters with the world for children and young people, and a brand for Osaka, Kansai and Japan to be globally promoted. We aimed to create a venue concept that can allow visitors to feel, experience and remember the true significance of the Expo.

How does the site concept for Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai embody the Expo's theme of "Designing Future Society for Our Lives" and its emphasis on sustainability?

Sou Fujimoto: The Ring, at the centre of the Expo site, is being constructed from timber. In recent years, there has been a focus on timber construction in terms of carbon neutrality and sustainability, and large-scale timber construction is progressing around the world. Large-scale wooden structures are considered a 'material of the future' on a global scale due to their sustainability.

It is our firm belief that wooden architecture is the sustainable architecture of the future. In Japan, home to the world's oldest wooden building, Horyu-ji Temple, the combination of ancient traditional and modern technology can show what wooden architecture will look like in the future. This will hopefully demonstrate that Japan is a world leader in wooden architecture, and that wooden architecture is the sustainable architecture of the future.

"Large-scale wooden structures are considered a material of the future"

The Grand Ring is the largest and perhaps the most iconic structure on the Expo site that will undoubtedly be a major feature for visitors. How do you envision its symbolic and functional role at the Expo?

Sou Fujimoto: The Ring is a symbolic gateway, welcoming visitors from all over the world, and embodying the desire of visitors to experience the philosophy of the Expo site design, ‘unity in diversity’. In terms of functionality, it has a main flow line to facilitate free movement, plays a role in providing shelter from rain, wind and sun, incorporates multiple navigation systems including signage, and serves as circular route to arouse curiosity about what lies beyond.

From the aerial walkway, you can see the calm waters of the Seto Naikai or Inland Sea at sunset and enjoy panoramic views of Osaka and Kobe. From there, gazing skyward, you will see a single, clean-cut sky. I hope you will feel that this sky is shared by everyone in the world, full of diversity. I want to integrate these myriad features into the site landscape that will remain in everyone's memory and create a strong identity that will characterise this Expo.

"The ring serves as a circular route to arouse curiosity about what lies beyond"

What are the biggest challenges in building the Large Ring?

Sou Fujimoto: Japan is a country with a tradition of over 1,000 years of wooden architecture. The challenge of updating that tradition with modern technology and making it a new architecture for a sustainable future was huge.

When Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai opens in one year, each visitor will have their own interests, priorities and expectations. What would you like visitors’ lasting impressions of the Expo to be?

Sou Fujimoto: I am reminded once again that the Expo is indeed the sum total of many different people, events and exchanges. In this information-driven era, it is a precious and respectable thing for countries to physically come together in one place - for as long as six months - to interact with each other. The Expo is a unique place where countries and regions from all over the world come together, where people communicate directly with each other, and where their great diversity is united. My hope is that every visitor will experience ‘unity in diversity’.

"The Expo is the sum total of many different people, events and communications"

The landscape and architecture of Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai will also be determined by the dozens of countries, organisations and companies that are currently building their own unique pavilions. How will these structures interact with the overall Master Plan?

Sou Fujimoto: I expect each country pavilion will embody diversity, reflecting each nation’s characteristics and ideas. And I hope that this diversity will resonate with others, coming together to form a powerful message that everyone in the world is creating the future together.

Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai will gather 161 countries and 9 international organisations and will open its gates to the public on 13 April 2025.

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