Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Korea at the World's Fair

An article in yesterday's Korea Times reminded me that the 2010 Shanghai World's Fair has been open for nearly two weeks now. But you don't need to get in a panic--the closing date is October 31. Modern world's fairs or International Expos always run six months, and must take place inside one calendar year.

The last fair was in Zaragoza, Spain in 2008, and the next will be held right here in Korea--Yeosu--in 2012. These are both "recognised" fairs, smaller in scale, and lasting only three months. Yeosu, 여수시, 麗水市, literally "peaceful water city", is the largest city in Jeollanam-do at the center of Korea's south coast. The theme of Yeosu 2012 will be: "The Living Ocean and Coast: Diversity of Resources and Sustainable Activities". Frankly, I think Okinawa 1975 said it better: "The Sea We Would Like to See".

But getting back to Shanghai 2010, it is expected to shatter almost every world's fair record. Size: 1300-acre site straddling the Huangpu River; attendance: 70-100 million people projected (for comparison, all Disney parks combined draw about 60 million in a six month span); participation: 200 countries will be represented. The theme is "Better City, Better Life".

Korea looks to have a really cool pavilion; you can learn about it here (includes a nice video): http:// /en/kopavilion/ kor_tour.jsp. The pavilion is a multidimensional cube with 3-D Hangeul characters. The mascot is "Dauri", which means "everyone living in harmony."

But none of this is the concern of the Korea Times article I mentioned at top, which has the following headline: 1900 Korean pavilion in Paris Expo disclosed. Vicente Gonzales Loscertales, head of the BIE (a Paris-based body that sanctions world fair events), donated several rare documents relating to the fin de siecle Universal Exposition. Korea put in its first fair appearance at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, famous among other things for the first Ferris Wheel.

Le Petit Journal, a French daily, covered the Korean Pavilion at the 1900 Paris Expo:
"The charm of this wooden building, colored in primary colors and covered with a roof of Far East beauty, attracts the public gaze," the newspaper said.[...] "The pavilion impresses visitors portraying Korean resources and industry as it displays collections of the king and artifacts brought by French who lived in Korea."


조안나 said...

I've seen some photos from Shanghai lately. What I want to know is... what happens to those buildings after the fair is over? they look like fairly permanent (and super cool) structures... have you seen this blog? it's a girl working in china, currently actually working on the Swedish pavilion. Pretty cool stuff on this blog, it's one of the only non-korea blogs I read.

John from Daejeon said...

There's a great shot of the Korean pavilion, or at least the Korea I get from the English language newspapers outside of "South" Korea.

Tuttle said...

John: Interesting link, but I think the best shot is the UK pavilion--from the angle, doesn't it look like an enormous a$$h*le?

Well, Jo-Anna, you have asked a question I can answer, as I am a minor WF buff. As you note, WFs are distinguished by their architecture, a sort-of tradition that goes back to 1851 and the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace. This first fair was the brainchild of Victoria's Prince Albert to showcase England's and her colonies' goods, cultures, technology, etc. The Crystal Palace itself was the world's largest pre-fabricated building, the largest glass structure, etc. It was set up in Hyde Park, and stayed there for many years--it was eventually moved to the suburbs, and burned in 1937.

Still, the large fairs that followed usually made an architectural statement--so-called legacy buildings. Paris 1889 had the Eiffel Tower. NY 1939 (the quintessential WF) had the Trylon and Perisphere--gone now. Seattle 1962: Space Needle. Knoxville 1982: Sunsphere (remember the Simpson's episode?) Brussels 1958 (first WF after WWII): the Atomium--visit the webpage: For Montreal 1967 they built an island!

So, in some cases, the Expo centerpiece becomes a visual shorthand for the city, as well as a tourist attraction. Others are still around, but have fallen into disrepair (NY 1964, for example).

Some pavilions are converted for new uses or are moved elsewhere and converted. The reknown Paris House restaurant at Woburn Abbey outside London was moved from Paris 1878 by the Duchess of Bedford. Part of St Louis 1904 (Judy Garland movie, Meet Me in ...) became the Library, Art Museum and so forth. Interestingly, St Louis also hosted the Olympics while the WF was going on there.

But sadly, the answer is that the vast majority of pavilions are simply torn down and scrapped. And we've lost some incredible architecture as a result--take LeCorbusier's Philips building for Brussels, for example. Amazing acoustics, eye-pleasing contours, mind-bending engineering--all gone!

The website is a good place to start if you want to learn more about legacies and such. They have links to official and hobbyist websites for every single WF, with some great pictures and stories about whatever-happened-to.

Also, looks like a cool blog, thanks!

조안나 said...

Wow, I guess I asked the right person that question. Good to know, thanks! I'll be curious to find out what China does with all those crazy buildings...