chapter  15
International Exhibitions and Urban Design Paradigms
ByJavier Monclús
Pages 18

International Exhibitions (otherwise known as World’s Fairs or Expos) can be seen as laboratories, showcases and ‘front runners’ of dierent kinds of urbanism, as well as catalysts of urban change. In contrast to the wide literature on their architecture or their impact on urban development, much less attention has been paid to their relationship with models and paradigms of urban design. From Sigfried Giedion to Leonardo Benevolo, modern historiography has seen international exhibitions as manifestations of the most advanced architecture. The advent of modern functionalist architecture through nineteenth-century exhibitions was a strong idea which has been widely accepted (Benevolo 1971, Giedion 1941). Nevertheless, the relevance of these exhibitions, which have played a key role in architectural and town planning historiography, has led to excessive generalizations in some urban studies, labelling them as mere ‘ephemeral festivals’ or spectacular places in contrast to the ordinary city. Instead they should be viewed not only as episodes in which the urbanism and architectural culture of the moment is expressed, but also as opportunities and a catalyst for innovation (Monclús 2009). It seems obvious that ‘Expos are usually a golden opportunity for architects and engineers to make something new’ (Ban 2011: 11).What is perhaps not so clear in standard historiography, at least regarding promotion strategies, is that ‘expos have been a front runner of a kind of urbanism that is now very characteristic in the early 21st century’ (Ward 2008).