What happens when the Expo's over
What happens when a world’s fair is over? this question may seem somewhat rhetorical, yet it does, in fact, carry implications that over the years have transformed everyday life in many cities as well as our collective imagination.
- Sunday, 26 April 2015
The structures erected to host universal expositions are normally built only to be taken down when the events are over, save for a few main attractions such as conference halls, amphitheatres and the pavilions of the host countries, which are supposed to be converted and reutilised.
However, a number of buildings that were destined to have a short life do survive sometimes and thus have an opportunity to become true iconic symbols of a city. think of the eiffel tower and how its demolition would have deprived Paris of one of the most characteristic features of its skyline or Brussels’ atomium, which has become of the most photographed symbols of the Belgian capital since the 1958 World’s Fair.
Considering the huge investment in terms of money and creativity that all nations pour into capturing the attentions of visitors at every expo, it is certainly a pity that the creations born of such endeavours are so short-lived or even quickly forgotten.
For this reason, in recent
years, the most successful pavilions have received better consideration: rather than being demolished, they have been sold to the highest bidder or reconstructed back home, where people can continue to marvel at them. such was the case with the dune-shaped United arab emirates pavilion at the 2010 expo in shanghai. Designed by sir Norman Foster, it ended up being so popular that it was flat-packed away after the exposition and reassembled on the island of saadiyat in abu Dhabi, where it can still be seen by admiring visitors. the taiwan pavilion, with its huge rotating sphere, was taken back home too, while the award-winning British pavilion, nicknamed “Dandelion” by the public, was sacrificed for a social cause.
Its 60,000 clear acrylic pieces filled with seeds that gave it the distinctive look of a flower waving in the wind were sold and donated to charities. the Italian pavilion also set an exceptional precedent after the shanghai world expo, bending the rules of the International exposition Bureau (BIe) that prescribes the dismantling of all structures after an exposition has ended. Converted into the shanghai Italian Centre, the pavilion still stands in its original location to the great appreciation of shanghai’s residents, who now have a place to experience Italian culture and excellence.
The ironclad rules of the BIE will also apply to Milan expo 2015 as press office manager stefano Gallizzi assures: “the participation agreements signed by the participating countries stipulate that the pavilions will have to be removed at the end of the exposition and the areas they occupied vacated by June 2016”. However, exactly what the individual exhibitors decide to do with their pavilions remains to be seen.
It is therefore likely that the expo 2015 agreements will spare Milan the bitter destiny that befell seville. Contrary to the original plans, many of the pavilions built for the 1992 World’s Fair hosted in the spanish city were never taken down but reconverted wherever possible and incorporated into a scientific and technological park that is now home to many companies’ headquarters. Despite science-fiction aesthetics worthy of a postapocalyptic blockbuster film, the area is not exactly a priority on tourists’ sightseeing agendas.
In view of the costs incurred to host the 1992 exposition and for the maintenance of the site, which is still being paid for by the city, the outcome is a disappointment. Not coincidentally, many of the pavilions are still looking for a buyer, such as the Hungarian pavilion, an oddly shaped wooden structure with an asking price of approximately €1 million.