Mind & Matter


The Expo Afterlife

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Alvaro Siza Vieira, The Portugal Pavilion, Lisbon, 1998. Photo: Blaine Brownell.


As the widely celebrated Expo 2010 Shanghai China comes to a close, news reports indicate success by the numbers. A record 73 million visitors attended the Expo from 246 countries and international organizations—more than any previous world exposition (although some 95 percent of the attendees were Chinese). The event was certainly unforgettable, as Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao claimed during an Expo forum last Sunday, and resulted in many remarkable works of architecture. However, isn’t success also measured by the long-term contribution an expo site makes to its home city?

I returned this week from Lisbon, home of the 1998 world expo (Expo '98) that commemorated half a millennium of Portuguese oceanic discoveries. Upon visiting the Parque das Nações (Park of the Nations), I was struck by how lively the site is today, in addition to how well the area is integrated with the pre-Expo urban fabric.

I mentioned my observations to Henrique Cayatte, president of the Portuguese Design Centre and design consultant for Expo '98. Although he bemoaned that the site had changed and many new structures had been added, Cayatte attributed the current success of the Expo site to his team’s prioritization of its afterlife. “We wanted to avoid the mistakes of Seville,” Cayatte said in response to the ghost town left behind after the 1992 Spanish expo, Expo '92.

When I asked his opinion of the Expo 2010 Shanghai site’s future potential, he shook his head, adding, “Never before had I seen barbed wire enclosing an expo site.” Perhaps once the control fencing is removed and temporary uses are replaced with long-term programs, however, this $47 billion Chinese investment may also have a chance to enhance the future life of Shanghai.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.