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World's Fairs

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This thread is a place to discus World's Fairs. We have not had a World's Fair in the US for some time, and in fact since Seattle we have not had a particularly memorable one. Has the notion of a World's Fair died? Do they still have a role to play in the development of a city? What do you think it would take to make a successful World's Fair today, or is it impossible?

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The only World's Fair I've been to was the one in New Orleans in 1984. I went for a class field trip, and I didn't know it had anything to do with other nations, all I remember is it felt like we were going to carnival or something along those lines, I rode this ride that was supposed to feel like a safari or something. Other than that the only other things I remember was seeing the space shuttle for the first time, and this black girl from my class screaming Seymour! Seymour! I think she spotted the mascot or something.

Now that I'm not 7 and I'm MUCH more aware of the world a World's Fair would probably be something I would enjoy.

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I remember hearing about many great inventions, especially electricity, being showcased at World's Fairs. It sounded like E3.. but for technology and culture. But to be honest, I've never even heard of a World's Fair since what, the 50s? For a long time I did not even think they still existed.

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They still exist - most of them are taking place in Asia now, though. The last one in the US was, I think Vancouver in the 80's? They also tend to be much smaller than the World's Fairs of old, like Paris and New York and Chicago.

Is this simply because the US is beyond the point where they have any relevance, or simply because no one is making the effort to stage one? I would love to see one, but to be honest what I have read of the recent World's Fairs they are a lot less about technology and the future and more about public initiatives and politics.

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The last one in the US was, I think Vancouver in the 80's?

Uhm, Vancouver is in Canada, unless there was a world's fair in Vancouver, Washington.

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I don't think Worlds Fairs really have much of a place in todays society. They were a place to exhibit and display emerging technology, culture and arts to societies that at the time didn't have the information technology that we have today that enables most of us to search and learn about anything almost instantaneously. Not that I would not find them facinating to see first hand but the costs and the popularity of other venues would make them difficult to put on.

This reminds of the great book by Erik Larson, "The Devil in the White City". A really interesting and entertaining book about the Chicago Worlds Fair juxtaposing the architectural stories and challenges of the designing, building and running of the fair with a simultaneous story of a serial murderer taking advantage of the rapid changes happening to the city because of the fair.

Lots of fun architectural/urban design stuff and a murder thriller to boot. Two thumbs up!

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All I know is when they were big they really did a lot to help cities... I took the Riverwalk cruise in San Antonio and the tour guide kept saying "that building built for the Worlds Fair... That hotel built for the worlds fair... that observation tower for the WF..."

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There's a movement--albeit still very small--to bring a World's Fair to Atlanta.

But, their importance in today's society is diminishing.

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The big world's fairs of the 20th century were basically big advertisements of the future as seen in the eyes of the corporations. One of the biggest was the 1939 worlds fair of NYC. In that fair GM presented a fascinating dynarama where people were transported over a city of the 1960s. That city featured futuristic towers surrounded by elevated highways full of cars and trucks (presmably built by GM) There were no provisions for pedestrians, in fact people basically remained sealed up in the towers unless they were in their car.

It's amazing how many cities tried to implement something such as this over the following decades. Many cities demolished square miles of urban development to make way for elevated freeways through their centers, and leveled even more buildings for parking lots. I wonder how much the 1939 fair influenced that design.

In the last 1/2 of the 20th century,world's fairs were propaganda tools to show consumers how much better our consumerist society was compared to the more pragmatic societies under socialism. The big deal in the 1964 fair was a house made of plastic that removed the drugery of housework. Everything was disposable. (again good for the corporations, horrible for the environment).

Then came the pollution of the 1950s, the rebellion against conformaty of the 1960s (worlds fairs assumed a conformist society) and the energy crisis of the 1970s. By the 1980s people didn't trust the corporations or government anymore for their vision of the future as it is almost always wrong. Half hearted attempts at the worlds fairs in places like Knoxville TN, in 1982, finally killed it off in the USA. They have been replaced by extensive theme parks, and we here in the USA have a permanent world's fair on display in Epcot. Go there and you basically you can see what it is all about.

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I found a 1939 World's Fair coin (for some reason with a hole punched into it) in my grandfather's dresser drawer. I wonder if that could possibly be worth anything...

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The Queens Museum in Flushing has some interesting displays on the two World's Fairs that took place there. It also features the Panorama of New York, it's well worth the trip out to Flushing (Shea Stadium/Willets Point stop) on the 7 subway line if you're ever in NYC.

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I don't think Worlds Fairs really have much of a place in todays society. They were a place to exhibit and display emerging technology, culture and arts to societies that at the time didn't have the information technology that we have today that enables most of us to search and learn about anything almost instantaneously. Not that I would not find them facinating to see first hand but the costs and the popularity of other venues would make them difficult to put on.

This reminds of the great book by Erik Larson, "The Devil in the White City". A really interesting and entertaining book about the Chicago Worlds Fair juxtaposing the architectural stories and challenges of the designing, building and running of the fair with a simultaneous story of a serial murderer taking advantage of the rapid changes happening to the city because of the fair.

Lots of fun architectural/urban design stuff and a murder thriller to boot. Two thumbs up!

I own "The Devil in the White City". Very interesting book, I suggest it to anyone who hasn't already read it.

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^Aisde from the fact that pedestrians still have access to the streets of today's cities (some cities have better street access than others), that vision for the future seems like it actually came true.

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^Aisde from the fact that pedestrians still have access to the streets of today's cities (some cities have better street access than others), that vision for the future seems like it actually came true.

That was my point. Too many people believed in it .

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In many ways the World's Fair reflected societies belief in the future at that time. What do you think a show that tried to bring to life our current vision of the future would shape up?

I think that perhaps it is time for another huge fair - this time not refelcting the future we saw of it in the 1st half of the 20th century, but as we see it (hopefully in a positive note) in the first half of the 21st. Agreed that it would be different from the past fairs, but how? Assuming that there were no exclusive exhibitors, and everyone had a fair chance, what do you think would come of it? It seems we are now, more than ever, interested in new gadgets and technology, thus we have magazines like Cargo and wired, and shows like E3 or whatever it is called.

I think the most difficult thing would be making the fair accessible - it has become so hard the last few years for people to be able to travel to foreign countries.

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I'm a little cynical towards America's view in terms of development. We still lead the world with our advances, but I think our society as a whole doesn't care. China seems to have the spirit we had.

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China seems to have the spirit we had.

Indeed, its a combination of delusional reglious dogma combined with unrestrained instant gratification materialism. No wonder there is any concern or investment for the future here anymore.

I recommend a trip to any of the modern Asian cities to see how far America is dropping behind. Beyond the obscene spending on the military, there are very few technological breakthroughs happening here as there was 40-50 years ago.

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there are very few technological breakthroughs happening here as there was 40-50 years ago.

Agreed. I think in the US we have changed from being an innovation driven economy to a bureaucracy economy - we spend more on the business of operating a business than on the products we sell. In many ways I find that a big slap in the face of capitalism - where teh better product is supposed to win out. Which is why I would love to see something that would start regenerating interest again in advancements. Something which would drive innovation again.

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Which is why I would love to see something that would start regenerating interest again in advancements. Something which would drive innovation again.

We had a big oil crisis in the 70s which we could have innovated in response to, but we didn't and look at us all panicking now.

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We had a big oil crisis in the 70s which we could have innovated in response to, but we didn't and look at us all panicking now.

Well actually there was a lot of energy innovation in the 70s. But all of it was dismanteled in the 1980s and 90s.

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We had a big oil crisis in the 70s which we could have innovated in response to, but we didn't and look at us all panicking now.

i saw something on tv that said we're not really in an oil crisis, that we're not going to run out of oil for a long long time. we will run out of the easy-to-get oil that comes in liquid form, but apparently there's huge oil beds in canada where it's mixed in with the dirt, so it's more expensive to separate.

but yes, we should have innovated in response to the crisis 30 years ago. i still don't feel like we're innovating enough now in response to the current problems.

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The legacies of the World's Fairs are what I appreciate the most. The only one I attended was Vancouver in '86 but seen the legacies of Seattle '62 and Spokane '74.

Spokane:

Here is an aerial photo of the 1974 World's Fair in Spokane. The fair site was a grungy railyard prior to the fair & is now Riverfront Park:

537ewshs75.jpg

Expo map:

expomap.jpg

It is a great place. Downtown & River Park Square a downtown mall with a Nordstrom & Macy's are directly across the street & the arena district is just to the north. The park is the epicenter of Spokane you could say, especially since the falls are there too.

The area today:

skh2002_086.jpg

Vancouver:

Before in 1982:

vch1982_077.jpg

vch1982_069.jpg

vch1982_068.jpg

Expo '86:

vch1986_022.jpg

vch1986_025.jpg

vch1986_030.jpg

Here is what that area looks like now:

vch2005_395.jpg

vch2005_458.jpg

vch2005_414.jpg

Seattle:

Here is the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle:

aerial.jpg

And its legacy, Seattle Center:

(#1 - Key Arena, #10 Opera House, #16 Memorial Stadium, #18 Experience Music Project, #20 monorail station, #22 Seattle Center House (shops, restaurants, etc), #35 Space Needle, #28 Pacific Science Center)

map.gif

WASEh040617D_217.jpg

WASEh041020D_615.jpg

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how big is spokane? was that island there or did they make it for the fair?

sounds like something that could really help improve a city...

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