From the very first event over 150 years ago that showcased the fruits of Britain’s Industrial Revolution, to the most recent that put the issue of feeding the world’s growing population in the spotlight – World Expos offer a fascinating barometer of the times
1. The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations, 1851
Crystal Palace, Hyde Park (London, UK)
The first international Expo provided a platform for participating countries to showcase their industrial achievements. While some opposed the exhibition, concerned about overseas competition, the majority embraced the opportunity to champion Britain’s industrial prowess and forge a better future. Notable attendees included Charles Darwin, Charlotte Bronte, Lewis Carroll, George Eliot and Charles Dickens.
Attendance: 6,039,195 / Number of participating countries: 25
2. Expo ‘58/The Brussels World’s Fair, 1958
Palais de Exposition, Heysel Exhibition Park (Brussels, Belgium)
The first major world Expo following the end of World War II marked a shift in the event’s direction. Expo ‘58 broadened the focus from a celebration of technological progress to also providing an opportunity to shine a light on humanity. The event’s centrepiece, the Atomium, was opened alongside a call for peace and reinforced the theme of a ‘A More Humane World’.
Attendance: 41,454,412 / Number of participating countries: 44
3. Century 21 Exposition/The Seattle World’s Fair, 1962
Broad Street (Seattle, USA)
Seattle’s Expo acknowledged the contributions of science and research to the American Way of Life. The theme, ‘Man in the Space Age’, was divided into the World of Science, the World of Art, the World of Entertainment, the World of Commerce and Industry, and the World of the 21st Century. Visitors learned how man was predicted to live, work, play and travel in the 21st Century. The Expo’s legacy included a number of public buildings – such as the famous Space Needle – that were credited with revitalising Seattle’s economy.
Attendance: 9,000,000 / Number of participating countries: 24
4. Expo ‘92/The Universal Exposition of Seville, 1992
Isla de la Cartuja (Seville, Spain)
Seville’s 1992 exposition, Spain’s fourth, ran under the theme ‘The Age of Discovery’. This was chosen in celebration of the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus discovering the Americas. The Expo site, Isla de la Cartuja, is where the explorer is believed to have lived before his journey. Post-Expo, the site was turned into a research and development park.
Attendance: 41,814, 571 / Number of participating countries: 108
5. Lisbon Expo ‘98/ The Lisbon World Exposition, 1998
Parque Expo (Lisbon, Portugal)
Previous Expos had touched upon the topic, but the Lisbon exhibition poured oceans of attention on the relationship between man and his natural environment. Campaigning for a more respectful approach to the marine ecosystem, the event made the protection and preservation of aquatic life a top priority on the global agenda.
Attendance: 10,128,204 / Number of participating countries: 143
6. Expo 2005
Aichi (Nagoya, Japan)
Keeping with the theme of ‘Nature’s Wisdom’, Aichi 2005 offered myriad prototype demonstrations of new green technologies and environmental solutions. At the event, over 20 million plates and cutlery were made from biodegradable plastics, and the Japan Pavilion sourced all its energy from renewable technologies.
Attendance: 22,049,544 / Number of participating countries: 121
7. Expo Shanghai 2010
Nanpu Bridge-Lupu Bridge (Shanghai, China)
Shanghai 2010, the first exhibition hosted by an emerging economy, was also the first to tackle urban planning and the development of sustainable city life. With 60 per cent of the world’s population expected to live in cities by 2030, issues such as security, sustainability and hygiene are more salient than ever. Shanghai was able to handle the staggering 73 million visitors that descended on the city thanks to the 4,000 new taxis and six new subway lines that opened ahead of Expo.
Attendance: 73,000,000 / Number of participating countries: 192
8. Expo Milano 2015
The most recent Expo, which drew to a close this weekend, Milan’s event addressed the issue of how to feed and sustain an expected rise in the world’s population to 9 billion by 2050. Under the theme ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’, nations showcased technology that aids the production of healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone without harming the planet’s equilibrium. Reflecting the theme, the site used eco-friendly and reusable materials for buildings alongside renewable energy sources, while the partnership between organisers and the UN sought to rally support for Zero Hunger Challenge.
Attendance (expected): over 20,000,000 / Number of participating countries: 145