World exhibition

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1851: Queen Victoria opens the London World's Fair in the Crystal Palace
1867: Moorish kiosk, created as a Prussian contribution to the World Exhibition in Paris , later rebuilt and set up in the park of Linderhof Palace
1873: The opening ceremony of the world exhibition in Vienna by Emperor Franz Joseph I in the rotunda
1889: World Exhibition in Paris . The picture shows the machine hall , which was demolished in 1910.
1893: World Exhibition Grounds in Chicago
1900: This Paris World's Fair was characterized by the Art Nouveau style and attracted a record 50 million visitors.
1929: German pavilion at the world exhibition in Barcelona by Mies van der Rohe (reconstruction 1983–1986)
Paris 1937: Confrontation between the German pavilion (left) and the Soviet pavilion (right)
1958: The Atomium during the world exhibition in Brussels
Expo 2000 in Hanover: Pavilion of Hope (Expowal)
2005: At the Expo 2005 in Nagakute and Seto , Japan , fully automatic buses without a driver were used on a route within the Expo site.

The world exhibition as, International Exposition Universelle , exposure Mondiale ( Expo ), or World's Fair called, is an international exhibition that is in the period of industrialization as technical and craft exhibition has established itself. The official institution for awarding the world exhibitions has been the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) since 1928 . The world exhibitions recognized by the BIE last three to six months.

World fairs are often characterized by interesting architecture that tries to express the characteristics of the respective country. The often very elaborate and expensive pavilions are usually torn down after the exhibition times instead of being reused.


The first world exhibition was held at the suggestion of Prince Albert in 1851 in London's Hyde Park under the title Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations . There, Joseph Paxton built the Crystal Palace, the spectacular Crystal Palace , a 600-meter-long building made of glass and iron especially for the event . The first exhibitions united the world under the great roof of a single building. With the exhibition in Paris in 1867 , however, the space requirements could no longer be covered, which meant that separate pavilions had to be built for the participating countries. This concept of the country pavilions has held up to this day.

Until 1914 there were numerous world exhibitions, each of which had a particular ideological program: Paris (1855, 1867, 1889, 1900), Antwerp (1885, 1894), Barcelona (1888), Berlin (1879), Brussels (1888, 1897, 1910), Chicago (1893), Gent (1913), London (1862, also the Colonial and Indian Exhibition 1886), Liège (1905), Milan (1906), Melbourne (1880), Philadelphia (1876), St. Louis ( 1904), Vienna (1873). The Paris World's Fair in 1900 had a record of 50 million visitors. The most lasting exhibition today was the Paris exhibition of 1889. It was the reason for the erection of the Eiffel Tower . At the Philadelphia exhibition in 1876, the USA was able to demonstrate its technical-industrial potential for the first time.

Since 1867 there was a need to develop common rules for holding world exhibitions, which is why the General Commissioner of the British Pavilion at the Paris World Exhibition issued a memorandum that was signed by the representatives of Austria, Prussia, Italy, Russia and the USA. It addressed three main goals of future cooperation: controlling the size and duration of world exhibitions, rotating between states and differentiating between the various types of exhibitions according to the quality of the exhibits.

Germany started another initiative in 1912, but this was not pursued any further due to the outbreak of the First World War .

The treatment of this question was resumed in the 1920s and ultimately led to 31 states signing the Convention Regulating International Exhibitions on November 22, 1928 . This agreement obliges the signatories to apply its provisions to all international exhibitions that are neither commercial nor artistic and last more than three weeks. It described the individual types of exhibitions, laid down their frequency and rules for both the organizers and the participants, and appointed the BIE as the supervisory authority to ensure compliance with the convention by all parties involved.

However, this was not the end of the development, as there were numerous changes to this agreement as a result, whereby in 1988 the demarcation between “registered exhibitions”, i.e. that is, general world exhibitions and "recognized exhibitions", ie international special exhibitions. Last but not least, in order to reduce costs for organizers and participants.


The BIE oversees a total of four types of exhibitions: “Registered” world exhibitions have a topic of global interest, are national events that are held in a specific city, take place every 5 years, are not limited in terms of area and last up to six Months. Participants are countries, international organizations, companies, civil society and non-governmental organizations that can set up their own pavilions and organize events. World fairs attract an average of 15 to 20 million visitors, with Shanghai in 2010 even having 73 million visitors. In addition, they also serve to implement urban, traffic and touristic structural improvements. Another world exhibition can only be held in the same city after 15 years.

"Recognized" international special exhibitions have specific topics, take place between two world exhibitions, are limited to 25 hectares, and can last up to three months, whereby the organizer makes space available to the participants in provided pavilions.

In addition, the BIE regulates two other international exhibitions that are similar to the world exhibitions in terms of duration and international participation: Since 1933 the "Triennale di Milano" and since 1959 also the international horticultural exhibitions , which are jointly organized with the International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH) - an international organization founded in Switzerland in 1948.

Thematic focus

The original concept aimed primarily at the presentation of industrial and commercial capabilities and the demonstration of new technical developments in order to impress a global audience and to open up export opportunities.

The fact that the world is in a constant state of flux has led to a shift in the focus of the topics of the exhibitions supervised by the BIE to more fundamental issues affecting all of humanity, such as concerns about growing economic inequality or the threatening environmental problems caused by the world exhibitions have developed into international platforms for the analysis, development, education and communication of fundamental questions. For example, the theme of a world exhibition in Paris was “Arts and technology applied in modern life” and in Brussels “Balance of the world - for a more humane world”.

A general thematic focus was set in 1972 by a decision of the BIE to emphasize education as the goal of the world expositions, while in 1994 it was stated that world expositions should address the pressing problems of the present such as the challenge of environmental protection. Recent world exhibitions have therefore dealt with urbanism (Expo Shanghai 2010) or nutrition (Expo Milan 2015).

The unique special project of a joint world exhibition EXPO '95, which was to take place in 1995 in two different countries, at the same time in Vienna and Budapest , arose from the original competition between two world exhibitions planned by Austria and Hungary at about the same time for the last decade of the 20th century failed due to the financial difficulties of the Hungarian partner and the rejection of the project by the Viennese citizens in a referendum from 14 to 16 May 1991.

The last world exhibition in Germany to date was Expo 2000 in Hanover . Before that, there had already been four world exhibitions in Germany, three in Berlin (one of which was BIE-supported) and one in Munich.

The most recent world exhibition was the “ Expo Astana 2017 ” on the subject of future energy in Kazakhstan .

The 50 or so world exhibitions that the BIE has managed to date were a great success, as they combined the idea of ​​technical fascination with cultural events and entertainment. Often theme parks, show architecture and people shows were set up, which gave the world exhibitions the character of big fairs.

The following are currently planned for future world exhibitions:

  • the “ Expo Dubai 2020 ” on the subject of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”.

new hits

World novelties and well-known buildings shown at world exhibitions are:

Other exhibitions

The Berlin trade exhibition of 1896 is also referred to as the "prevented world exhibition" because Kaiser Wilhelm II did not want a world exhibition, but the Berlin merchants nevertheless organized an exhibition of the same size. With an area of ​​900,000 m², all previous world exhibitions were beaten.

The Paris colonial exhibition (Exposition coloniale Internationale) of 1931 was designed in the style of a world exhibition, without being designated as such. Here the colonial powers presented themselves and their colonies.

The Venice Biennale and the documenta in Kassel also took up the idea of ​​world exhibitions, but they focus on the visual arts .

The 6th Swiss National Exhibition in 2002 was not a world exhibition despite its name Expo.02 . It took place in Biel , Neuchâtel , Murten and Yverdon-les-Bains . Likewise, the Swiss National Exhibition Expo of 1964 (today also called Expo 64 to distinguish it ) was not a world exhibition.

See also


  • Simply gigantic - 150 years of fascination with the world exhibition 1851–2000 , special issue of the magazine “Damals - Das current magazine for history and culture”, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt (DVA), Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 3-421-05156-9
  • Alexander CT Geppert: World Theater: The History of the European Exhibition System in the 19th and 20th Century. A research report , in: Neue Politik Literatur 47.1 (2002), pp. 10–61.
  • Alexander CT Geppert: Fleeting Cities. Imperial Expositions in Fin-de-Siècle Europe. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke 2010. ISBN 978-0-230-22164-2
  • Alexander CT Geppert: World Exhibitions , in: European History Online , ed. from the Institute for European History (Mainz) , 2013, accessed on: September 2, 2013.
  • Winfried Kretschmer: History of the world exhibitions . Campus, Frankfurt am Main / New York 1999, ISBN 3-593-36273-2
  • Eric Mattie: World's Fair . Belser, Stuttgart / Zurich 1998, ISBN 3-7630-2358-5
  • Ines Augustin: The medals and plaques of the great world exhibitions 1851–1904 . Karlsruhe 1985, DNB 870624210 (dissertation at the University of Karlsruhe 1985, 515 pages).
  • Monika Meyer-Künzel: The predictable benefit. Urban development through world exhibitions and the Olympic Games . Dölling and Galitz, Hamburg 2001, ISBN 3-933374-89-8
  • World Exhibition in Paris 1900. Official catalog of the exhibition of the German Reich ( Memento from September 27, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Reichskommissariat / JAStargardt, Berlin 1900. (PDF; 50.1 MB)
  • Eric Larson: The devil in the White City , Vintage Press, 2004, ISBN 978-0-375-72560-9 ; 447 p., Approx. 20 ills. (On the history of the Columbian World Exhibition in Chicago in 1893 in combination with the story of a mass murderer who was up to mischief in Chicago at that time)
  • Beat Wyss: The Paris World Exhibition 1889: Images of globalization . Suhrkamp / Insel, Frankfurt a. M. 2010, ISBN 978-3-458-17485-1
  • Petra Krutisch: From all over the world. World exhibitions since 1851 . Publisher of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum , Nuremberg 2001, ISBN 3-926982-78-0
  • Jutta Zander-Seidel, Roland Prügel (ed.): Paths to modernity: world exhibitions, media and music in the 19th century . Publisher of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum , Nuremberg 2014, ISBN 978-3-936688-82-5
Reading lists

Web links

Wiktionary: world exhibition  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : world expositions  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Jürgen Osterhammel : The transformation of the world. A story of the 19th century. CH Beck. 2nd edition of the 2016 special edition. ISBN 978-3-406-61481-1 . P. 41
  2. Jürgen Osterhammel: The transformation of the world. A story of the 19th century. CH Beck. 2nd edition of the 2016 special edition. ISBN 978-3-406-61481-1 . P. 41
  3. Jürgen Osterhammel: The transformation of the world. A story of the 19th century. CH Beck. 2nd edition of the 2016 special edition. ISBN 978-3-406-61481-1 . P. 42
  4. a b story on the BIE website (English, French)
  5. EXPO '95 in Vienna and Budapest. Final report ( Memento of August 31, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF, 79 pages; 166 kB), dated July 1991. Detailed report from the idea to the rejection and the (corporate) legal consequences. Retrieved May 29, 2010.
  6. Bird's-Eye View of the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893 . In: World Digital Library . 1893. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  7. ↑ History of the cable car ( memento from November 5, 2010 in the Internet Archive ), accessed on December 3, 2011