As the Hanover Expo gets underway, and in the week that its organisers fend off media reports of low attendance and the laying off of 500 temporary staff, it is timely to consider the design work on display.
What began life in 1851, as a world fair for showcasing industrial innovation, is usually remembered for having spawned the shows which produced monumental structures such as Crystal Palace and the Eiffel Tower. A century and a half later and Expo – The World Exposition – still produces great architecture. But the design investment in pavilion interiors, as well as branding, multimedia, and product innovation, should not be overlooked.
Expo 2000 was first devised as a show about design content, with an, apparently successful, last-minute call permitting architecturally-led design entries.
As an entity the Expo is the most colossal display of inter-disciplinary design staged just about anywhere. With more than 170 national pavilions and collaborative themed areas plus a cable car, hardened pavilion designers can be spotted wheeling an assortment of futuristic scooters, bikes, mopeds and buggies around the 160ha German site.
The show’s overwhelming scale can lead you to forget the micro element. Almost every centimetre of every pavilion represents, after all, a collaboration of design effort. And while debate will doubtlessly continue to rage about the commercial viability of events like Expo, for as long as their success is measured in business terms, few visitors are likely to leave disappointed.