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World's Fairs
When Jade Doskow first started photographing her Lost Utopias series in 2007, it seemed eerily prescient. Published as the international banking system teetered on the brink of collapse, the remains of World’s Fair sites she highlighted seemingly captured the ruins of a time before our collective optimism towards the future had vanished. But World’s Fairs still happen. In fact, they’ve never been bigger. Recent and forthcoming expositions in Astana (2017), Beijing (2019) and Dubai (2020), make it clear that World’s Fairs still offer predictions of what is to come, illuminating human aspiration.

Expos are celebrations of art, science, engineering, and vernacular architecture, but they’re also opportunities for cities to announce themselves open for business. Following the carving of the Simplon Tunnel through the Alps, Milan invited the world to L'Esposizione Internazionale del Sempione in 1906. That same year, most of San Francisco was leveled by a colossal earthquake and resulting fires but aimed to re-emerge like a phoenix with the 1915 Panama–Pacific International Exposition. With Expo ’92, Seville sought to prove that it, and all of Spain, had truly emerged from the shadow of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship. Yet all the noble aspirations, centenary celebrations, and talk of the brotherhood of nations boils down to selling a city to an international audience.

Long before the internet, Expos were encapsulations of the global village. Millions flocked to experience foreign cultures and new innovations. With their national pavilions, countries competed for attention in the hope of attracting tourism, investment, or political recognition. But the greatest benefactors were almost always the host cities. Mies van der Rohe’s architectural contribution to the 1929 Exposició Internacional is remembered not as the German Pavilion—after the country that commissioned it—but the Barcelona Pavilion. Demolished the following year, it became a dazzling modernist specter in photographs and renderings until rebuilt in the Catalan city in 1986.
The lasting benefits for cities can be found in their fabric. The profits of the Great Exhibition of 1851 provided London with Albertopolis, with its still-flourishing museums like the V&A. Paris was left with a host of buildings from successive expositions including the Eiffel Tower, once intended as temporary. Whether the traces left behind are sublime or ridiculous is subjective—Brussels has the Atomium; Seattle, the Space Needle; Melbourne, its Royal Exhibition Building; Montreal, Habitat 67 and the bones of the Biosphere; Nashville, a life-size replica of the Parthenon. In a deeper sense, World’s Fairs changed the way citizens moved around and engaged with their cities from the initiation of the Paris Métro to the Vancouver Skytrain. Land was reclaimed in Chicago and Liege. Ghent, Vienna, and Suita were redeveloped. Melbourne and Barcelona were illuminated with electric lights. New roads, railways and flight paths emanated like nervous systems across countries, to bring spectators from the countryside and abroad.

Then, the Western-centric story goes, World’s Fairs fell from grace. Part of this was down to audiences simply aging. Who could blame nostalgia towards witnessing the Crystal Palace, the head of the Statue of Liberty in a Parisian park, the extra-terrestrial Trylon and Perisphere, or the Tower of the Sun? This was bolstered by the fact that many of the greatest buildings, like Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan’s Transportation Building of 1893 with its famed Golden Door, had been demolished and so attained a lost perfection in memory. World’s Fairs seemed to suit children, who would be swept up in the spectacle of monorails, geodesic domes, and Ferris wheels. They’d also fail to notice the temporary, occasionally-shoddy nature of the structures, or the fact that many Expos ran at a financial loss. When the Louisiana World Exposition capsized into bankruptcy in 1984, it seemed to confirm that the promise offered by World’s Fairs had already passed into the realm of Kodachrome photographs and Super 8 film.

More here.
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist  but instead the people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists -- Hannah Arendt.


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