Case Study

Expo '92 Seville, Spain: a World's Fair (1976-92)

consolidate Seville's position as capital of

World's Fairs are temporary expositions where nations and organizations build pavilions whose architecture and contents celebrate themselves and their achievements. They draw large crowds and can act as catalysts for further development in the host city. The plan and infrastructure of the fair sites are important aspects of the overall design. They have to be easily plugged into by assorted pavilions designed by a variety of architects striving to outdo each other in attracting attention. The infrastructure also has to provide a pleasant (i.e. efficient, comfortable and interesting) circulation space for the pedestrians that throng the fairs on important days.

The 1992 World's Fair in Seville celebrated the 500th anniversary of the discovery by Europeans of the New World and its peoples. It was supposed to have paralleled a fair in Chicago but that city withdrew in 1987. The initial idea for a fair in Seville came from Felipe González, the socialist Prime Minister of Spain who hailed from Seville. King Juan Carlos picked up the idea in 1976. González saw it as an opportunity to do more for Seville than put it on the world map. He sought and obtained funding from the European Community (now European Union) programme for depressed areas for a new airport (designed by Rafael Moneo), a new railroad station (designed by Cruz/Ortiz) and a high-speed train (AVE) link to Madrid. (The introduction of the train reduced flights from Madrid by 90%.) He saw them to be necessary infrastructure elements to both run a successful World's Fair and as a catalyst for a more enduring impact on Seville. It would also the Autonomous Andalusian region.

The site chosen in 1985 for the fair is an artificial island, Isla de la Cartuja, in the Guadalquivir River. The island falls between the river and an artificial flood control channel. Only a 425-acre (162-hectare) part of the island was used for the fair but the remainder was improved with vegetation. One of the problems facing the site designers was the difficulty of linking it to the historic core of Seville especially as obsolete rail tracks as well as the mainstream of the river intervened. Emilo Ambasz of New York and a consortium of Spanish engineers (Fernández Ordonez (brother of Spain's Foreign Relations Minister), Martinez Calzon, Junquera del Diestro and Perez Pita) were awarded first prize ex aqueo in an invited competition of 12 teams. It has been widely assumed that 'political considerations' weighed heavily in the decision to have joint-winners. The two teams were supposed to collaborate in producing a new design but that effort only lasted for 2 days.

The competition brief called for a theatre (to seat 2000), an auditorium (to seat 2200), a drama theatre (to seat 1500), an outdoor auditorium (to seat 10,000), an Olympic swimming pool (with seating for 5000), a planetarium and an arena for 25,000. As the programme changed no heed was paid to Ambaz's design. The problem that arose was due to the Fair's unanticipated success in attracting international exhibitors; the number increased from an expected 60 to 108.

Ambasz's scheme (see Figure 10.19) drew water from the river into three large

Figure 10.19 The Emilio Ambaz proposal. (a) The competition-winning proposal and (b) a cross section showing a barge plugged onto a wharf.

Figure 10.19 The Emilio Ambaz proposal. (a) The competition-winning proposal and (b) a cross section showing a barge plugged onto a wharf.

pools/lakes around which quays were located providing linkages into all the Park's infrastructure systems. He envisaged the exhibitors having their pavilions built on barges and moved along the river to plug-in to the site for the duration of the Fair. Once the fair was over the barges and their pavilions would 'sail' away and the park would remain. The other winning scheme was less dramatic. It kept the existing topography and proposed an ordered system of intersecting avenues in a grid form. The centrepiece - foreground element - was to be an 80-metre diameter moving model of the solar system.

Ambasz's design related a number of entrances on the Fair site to many points in the city via ferries - Venetian vaporetti. The Ordonez scheme was very much building oriented. It proposed bridges, buildings, monorails, roads and other artefacts that were financially rewarding to political leaders. Julio Cano Lasso, who was given the instruction to amalgamate ideas from the competition-winning schemes, assembled the implemented design (see Figure 10.20). The scheme was inward looking but linked to the city by a number of new bridges designed by such major figures as Santiago

Figure 10.20 Expo '92, Seville. (a) The plan as developed and (b) general view of the fair.

Figure 10.20 Expo '92, Seville. (a) The plan as developed and (b) general view of the fair.

Calatrava. The riverfront had a promenade along it but there was little to be viewed from it. The site was divided into three zones. The first was for Spanish regional pavilions. They created a dense cluster around a lake, the Lago de España. The second was for the international pavilions. They were located on the side of five parallel avenues (named after Edison, Newton, Curie, Einstein and Darwin) set at right angles to the main road, Camino de los Descubrimientos, connecting the Lago de España to the river. The third zone consisted of the permanent buildings. Here the fifteenth century Carthusian Monasterio Santa María de las Cuevas was restored especially for the Expo as a central exhibit. New buildings were added nearby: the Triana Tower (designed by Francisco Javier Sáenz de Oíza), the Pabellón de Descubrimientos (Pavilion of Discoveries designed by Javier Feduchi and Eduardo Arroyo) and others including the Pabellón de Andalucía, the province in which Seville is located.

The site plan showed little ingenuity but functioned effectively. To deal with the summer heat 32,000 trees were planted to give shade and some visual unity to the scheme. The pavilions were simply plugged into the infrastructure provided. They were considerably more colourful than those at the previous World's Fair (in Osaka) and were built mainly out of natural stone and metal sheeting. Some had especially interesting features. The Kuwati Pavilion (designed by Santiago Calatrava) had a roof of wooden 'claws' that closed to keep out the midday sun. The other pavilions were also designed by architectural luminaries such as Tadao Ando (the Japanese Pavilion).

The question with World's Fairs is: 'What do you do with the site when the Fair is over?' Most of the World's Fairs are demolished after their run is over and the sites completely turned over for other uses. This observation is partially true of Seville too but it did also leave a lasting legacy. The permanent buildings remain but much of the site now serves new purposes. It was transformed into a complex of exhibition halls and museums, the Cartuga, a science park, and leisure areas. The Lago de España is now part of the Isla Mágica theme park that opened in 1997. The park recreates the travels of the sixteenth century Seville-based new world explorers but its major feature is The Jaguar, a rollercoaster that rushes along at 85 kilometres per hour (53 miles per hour)! The theme park is struggling financially. Who goes to Seville to visit a theme park? In summer?

Major references

Ambasz, Emilio, ed. (1998). Master plan for the Universal Exposition - Seville 1992: Seville, Spain. In Emilio Ambasz: The Poetics of the Pragmatic: Architecture, Exhibit, Industrial Design. New York: Rizzoli, 197-203. Dixon, John M. (1992). World on a platter.

Progressive Architecture 73 (7): 86-95. Forgey, Benjamin (1 992). Spanish Treasures (Expo

'92, Seville). Architecture 81 (7): 72-9. Novo, Francisco Garcia and Claudia Zavalete de Daute (2002). Paisaje y urbanismo de la Expo '92. Seville: Reditores.

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