World’s Fairs are to technology and innovation what the Olympics are to sport and the human spirit. An extravagant public exhibition that — believe it or not — still takes place today (the next one is in Milan in 2015), the international fairs are fashioned after 19th-century French exhibitions set up to showcase the very best of progressive agricultural and technology. The first World Expo took place at the remarkable Crystal Palace in London, and since then has evolved from an experiential essay on industrialization and cultural exchange to a grand exercise in nation branding. Much like many of the now abandoned Olympic sites, cities around the world are littered with the bizarre architectural remains of far-out, futurist displays.
Now it’s not all bad, many of the most iconic constructions are some of the world’s most visited attractions (ie. The Eiffel Tower). Others memorialize significant moments in our rich, varied and innovative history. Some, however, have succumbed to see a sad fate of decay that makes it easy to question the extravagant spectacles. From Taro Okamoto’s anthropomorphic, avant-garde concrete sun masterpiece in Osaka to Pritzker Prize-winning architect Philip Johnson’s retro-future pavilion in Queens, click through to check out some of the more bizarre reminders of World’s Fairs past.
The Atomium by André Waterkeyn with André and Jean Polak for Expo ’58 — Brussels, Belgium