chapter  2
Imagining the Future of Cities through Exhibitions 1851–1914
ByHelen Meller
Pages 16

International exhibitions have endured to the present day but their golden era was the late nineteenth and early twentieth century (Figures 2.1 and 2.2). These early exhibitions showcased for their duration an image of what the world might become. Yet there were inherent limitations. The nineteenth-century exhibition ‘mania’ was generated by the fact that these events were paeans to the achievements of practical technological progress, facilitating new possibilities for opening up the world’s resources for economic development. Yet there was little eort to translate new technology into shaping the built environment. Louis Sullivan, contemplating the most extreme eort to recreate a whole city at the Chicago Exhibition of 1893, famously wrote that the White City was ‘an appalling calamity’, hating the retrograde image of an imaginary Baroque past that it personied (Bennett 2010: 1). However, in this case, this ‘blockbuster’ eort did help to concentrate the minds of American architects, businessmen, politicians and reformers about what kind of city they might want in the future.