With Expo 2020 Dubai only one year away, we are at a crisis point to create a world-class pavilion to represent the best of the American people at the first World Expo in the Middle East. Architecturally brilliant US pavilions had been globally admired during America’s Cold War foreign policy efforts. As an architect and documentary filmmaker who filmed America's abandonment of World’s Fairs through poor architectural design efforts in Face of a Nation, it is vitally important for me to share how a disintegration we’ve ignored for decades negatively impacts our American image abroad and endangers our hopeful vision of democracy. The story of our U.S.A pavilion captures the commercialization of our national interests. The defunding and abolition of a strategic part of our foreign policy, the United States Information Agency (USIA), in 1999 marked the end of design excellence as a tenet of representing the American people at important public diplomacy events. Our research documents the failures of when privatization totally takes over our public interests. Why is federal funding necessary for design excellence? Other countries demonstrate that they know the value of these events by paying for their own pavilions. Despite Reagan’s promise for “the energy and genius of the American people” at Expo ’92 in Seville, Spain, Congress blocked funds for the U.S.A Pavilion and we axed our American architect. The State Department scrambled to find “two exhibit buildings in moth-balls” for a makeshift pavilion the Spanish press maligned as “the American bra.” But architects know this message is most profoundly delivered through architecture. Congress eliminated the USIA (responsible for U.S.A. Pavilions overseas) in 1999 after we thought we had won the Cold War—ending public-sector support and beginning the battle of ‘who should pay.’ Debacles at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo and 2015 Milan World Expo are evidence enough that pure private-sector funding is a recipe for trouble. Shanghai’s U.S. Pavilion locked visitors inside and wasn’t even designed by an American architect! The richest country in the world didn’t raise enough to pay for Milan’s U.S. Pavilion, so the American companies who created it suffered significant financial losses. Diminishing World’s Fairs as “just trade fairs” and lauding public-private sector partnerships, the federal government has forced the private money to pay for our international exhibitions for the last 25 years. But public-private partnerships only work when the public sector pays as well. Other countries believe World’s Fairs are more than “just trade fairs,” with an important public diplomacy role, by engaging people around the world. More than 60 years after the USIA’s founding principles were defined "to understand, inform and influence foreign publics" about American ideas and values, our practice appears to be antagonizing the world instead. Rather than “winning hearts and minds” with face-to-face communication in “the last 3 feet,” our generation is tweeting, chatting, or cyber-bullying each other over thousands of miles. Most people don’t know the potency of our senses in the brick and mortar world. Architects use design excellence to kindle the viewer's emotions; a powerful persuasion without words. Innovative design captures futuristic visions of hope, effecting optimism and industry for generations to come. Awe-inspiring examples of the power of World’s Fair architecture influencing people for hundreds of years include the Crystal Palace and the Eiffel Tower. Our film follows the late Jack Masey, a U.S. foreign service officer/behind-the-scenes genius whose vision shaped the most innovative U.S.A. Pavilions from USIA’s early years. These pavilions inspired nations with a better idea about who we are as a people; including the setting for the 1959 Kitchen Debate, Buckminster Fuller’s Expo ’67 geodesic dome (inspiring Disney’s Epcot), and Davis Brody’s Expo ’70 air-inflatable—the largest in the world, where the Apollo 11 moon rock was shown. By the late 20th Century, U.S. trade interests had unconsciously projected a corporate, consumer image of American values and culture. The 21st Century saw the development of the internet, social media, and new digital platforms for people to communicate in cyberspace. These realms convinced many that international gatherings like World’s Fairs were costly, wasteful, and obsolete. No one anticipated they might become “virtual spaces” to spread false narratives about America. Going to the World’s Fair with design excellence is not only a chance to defend our American image in “real space,” but an opportunity to engage the world in the wonder we inspired when we did things right. American design excellence must be used to deflect the attempts to diminish our democracy. We must tell our story better to the world. It took a bipartisan Congress to underestimate the importance of design. It will take bipartisan Congressional support to fund and fix it. Special appropriations through Congress were essential to do things right during the Cold War, and federal funds are critical again to safeguard our vision of democracy. Because architecture reflects who we are. If we ignore what we see, we lose sight of our own vision. What keeps our dream alive? Going to the World’s Fair with our best American design talent might make all the difference. Mina Chow, AIA, is a documentary filmmaker, founder and principal of mc² SPACES, and an adjunct associate professor at the USC School of Architecture.
Posts tagged with "Dubai 2020 Expo":
Not content with only 13 supertall towers, including Santiago Calatrava’s 3,000-plus-foot-tall Dubai Creek Tower, the state-owned Dubai Holding has revealed plans for the 1,804-foot-tall Burj Jumeira. The split-volume tower, which will feature a large void between its two curvilinear masses (resembling an elongated take on Zaha Hadid Architects’ Macau Hotel), will erupt from a pond emblazoned with the fingerprint of Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum. The Burj Jumeira, not to be confused with the nearby Burj Al Arab Jumeirah hotel, will be springing up in a new mixed-use neighborhood in Dubai’s Al Sufouh area. “Downtown Jumeira” will hold a mix of residential, office, and commercial buildings, hotels, an amphitheater, space for artists and cultural events, and, judging from the video released by the Dubai Media Office, a fountain inside the fingerprint pool. The tower itself, whose design was reportedly inspired by shifting sand dunes, will be wrapped in an enormous digital screen capable of lighting up the entire building. A sky lounge and restaurant will round out the 360-degree observation deck planned at 1,476 feet up, and the tower is expected to be a major draw for tourists. The reveal comes before the World Expo 2020 Dubai, as the United Arab Emirates city ramps up its architecture bona fides, an effort that created the world’s largest picture frame. Work on the Burj Jumeira began on January 31, the same day it was announced, and Dubai Holding expects the first phase of the project to be complete in 2023. No cost projection has been released yet, but the New York office of SOM will handle the tower's design and engineering, as well as the development of the Downtown Jumeira master plan.
Colorado's Fentress Architects has released a first look at the U.S.’s pavilion for the upcoming Expo 2020 Dubai, revealing renderings of its mobility-themed, coliseum-like installation. Under a theme of “What Moves You? The Spirit of Mobility,” Fentress and partners from the U.S. State Department, George P. Johnson Experiential Marketing (which is designing the pavilion’s “experiences”), and various public and private partners from the United Arab Emirates revealed the pavilion’s final design on November 28, 2018. The cylindrical National Pavilion will be set askew with structural slants to convey a sense of movement and wrapped in a dynamic facade that can double as a screen for American-themed background imagery. According to Curtis Fentress, a founding partner at Fentress Architects:
We’re looking at an Expo that is related to mobility, movement, travel, sustainability—things that are very important to the world today. We have designed this building to be circular in form with slants fashioned to project a sensation of movement, making the viewer feel like the building itself is in motion. And then, once you enter the building, it opens up to what the United States stands for: We are an open, accessible country where you can live to create ideas. It showcases all the things we are doing in America: developing technology and concepts that are going to move us forward in the future. Designing this pavilion is a tremendous responsibility—one we take very seriously—as we will be showcasing America and American ideas to over 25 million people expected to visit the Expo.Pavilion USA 2020, the collective entity responsible for the installation, also announced a partnership with the California-based Virgin Hyperloop One. Come 2020, the pavilion will host mock-ups of Virgin’s hyperloop pods and offer simulated rides ahead of a projected 2021 rollout in as-of-yet unfinalized locations. The three-story pavilion will feature an internal walkway wound around a central internal void and multi-media column that will double as a triple-height public plaza. The programming will explore a range of what “movement” can mean, from space travel, to shipping cargo, to tracking the flow of blood throughout a body. The Dubai 2020 Expo will open to the public on October 20, 2020, and run through April 10, 2021.
Fentress Architects will design the United States of America’s pavilion at World Expo 2020 in Dubai. The winning design is based on the theme “What Moves You,” and will emphasize, “the power and diversity of culture, technological innovation in mobility, and commercial opportunity throughout the United States,” according to a statement from Pavilion USA 2020. Fentress’s design will play into the “dynamism of American culture,” and national values of “ingenuity, progress, and innovation.” The renderings from Fentress are yet to be released. “Working across the U.S. has given Fentress Architects diverse perspective on the attributes and attitudes that Americans share. We will coalesce these characteristics into a single architectural expression at World Expo 2020 Dubai, representing the entirety of the U.S. and its design prowess to an international audience,” said Curtis Fentress, principal in charge of design at Colorado-based Fentress Architects. The Fentress-designed pavilion will work with large and small firms from across the U.S., local citizens' groups from different states, and the U.S. and U.A.E. governments to tell a story about the U.S.’s role on the global stage. The exhibit and experience design will be curated by Michigan-based George P. Johnson Experience Marketing (GPJ). Dubai Expo will be held between October 20, 2020, and April 10, 2021, near Dubai emirate’s western border with Abu Dhabi emirate. American firm HOK is responsible for its master plan. The U.A.E. selected the theme “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” and the sub-themes Sustainability, Mobility, and Opportunity. It is expected to draw over 25 million visitors to the city and be a major economic event. The Bureau International des Expositions is the organizing body behind the shows, which are held intermittently around the world, most recently in Milan in 2015 and Shanghai in 2010. Previous expositions have been occasions for spectacular, sometimes experimental architecture, as in Buckminster Fuller's dome for Expo 1967 Montreal and Kenzo Tange's pavilion for Expo 1970 Osaka. The shows have historically been venues for industries of various nations to showcase their abilities and visions. Expo 2020 is the first world expo held in the Middle East, North Africa or South Asia. The preparation and operation of the fair are expected to result in 277,000 new jobs in the U.A.E. and inject $40 billion into the local economy. Check out this link for more details.
Dubai, seemingly the architectural playground of choice in recent times, was selected to host the 2020 World Expo three years ago. The event, which will last six months, will have the theme of "Connecting Minds, Creating Future." Not wanting to miss an opportunity to flaunt extravagant designs, Danish architect Bjarke Ingles and Brits Norman Foster and Nick Grimshaw have wasted no time jumping on the Dubai bandwagon. Their three firms, BIG, Foster + Partners and Grimshaw Architects have all received the green light to contribute pavilions touching on themes like mobility, sustainability, and opportunity. His Highness, Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Expo Higher Committee in partnership with Emaar Properties, unveiled the winners of the competition this month. BIG will design the "Opportunity Pavilion" which showcases an extravagant undulating facade curved in three dimensions. The structure invites audiences in by revealing the central lobby and core of the pavilion which also houses an array of trees and plant life. Foster + Partners put forward their "Mobility Pavilion," which is equally outlandish and curvaceous. Foster reportedly drew on his experiences when master-planning Masdar City—a city in Abu Dhabi that will rely solely on renewable energy. Finally Grimshaw Architects' "Sustainability Pavilion" maintains the trend toward elliptical design, with a replica of a large solar collector. Usually seen in the desert, similar designs require a tower to focus the light onto the collector (and others in the vicinity). Here, the large disc, which is acutely curved to form a bowl, is surrounded by many smaller versions that stand freely around it. The three pavilions make up only a fraction of the 200 hectare site of the Expo, expected to open in four years.