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How Expos Transformed Architecture

Updated: Oct 18, 2022

1. What is an Expo?

World Expos, officially known as International Registered Exhibitions, are a global gathering of nations dedicated to finding solutions to pressing challenges of our time by offering a journey inside a universal theme through engaging and immersive activities.

2. Brief history

The first World Expo – the Great Exhibition – took place in London in 1851 (its grounds later became today’s Hyde Park). It was devised by HENRY COLE, council member of the Society of Arts and editor of the Journal of Design.

Cole was probably inspired by the 1844 French Industrial Exposition.

Sponsored and supported by Prince Albert, it was imagined to become “the greatest collection of art in industry, ‘for the purpose of exhibition of competition and encouragement”

3. Design achievements of the past

The architecture for its part has always been used as a symbol of power for the richest people and nations. Hence some of the most famous structures, engineering fits and design achievements we still recognize today.

The Crystal Palace

The Crystal Palace was the 1st ever “exhibition ground”, and the biggest glass structure of its kind.

It was originally designed by Joseph Paxton - A greenhouse builder. Believe it or not - 250 proposals by England’s greatest have been submitted for the design of the grand structure that would house the exhibit - all declined. They were simply too expensive, too heavy, and would take far too long to build.

Paxton’s experience with light metal frames that could carry clear glass panels allowed him to accept the challenge: Completing the structure within 9 months.

The finished architecture was amazing: From the outside the building is perceived as an imposing structure 1851ft long by 408ft wide and 110ft high. Inside was spacious enough for an avenue of elm trees.

This loved & magnificent structure was dismantled in 1854 and moved to North London.

4. How does its design impact us - today?

Today we are used to see glass in volume, but to someone living in 1851 the idea of walking through enormous space of airy light inside a building was mind boggling.

The Glass Palace was the first mega temporal architecture structure. Think about it - Just like pavilions today, it was designed to show off technology and know-how. AND, it was built with the ability to be dismantled and re-erected again, using the same materials and plans.

Second, it encouraged the use of STEEL as building material instead of bricks. Today’s Expo’s are famous for implementing experimental techniques into their designs.

Paris’ Eiffel Tower (1889)

Chicago’s Ferris Wheel (1893)

Seattle's Space Needle (1962)

Dubai’s Al Wasl Plaza (2020)

Photo by Mike Krüger



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