The Architectural Lab: A History Of World Expos

The Universal Exposition of 1889. Image via Wikimedia Commons

World Expos have long been important in advancing architectural innovation and discourse. Many of our most beloved monuments were designed and constructed specifically for world’s fairs, only to remain as iconic fixtures in the cities that host them. But what is it about Expos that seem to create such lasting architectural landmarks, and is this still the case today? Throughout history, each new Expo offered architects an opportunity to present radical ideas and use these events as a creative laboratory for testing bold innovations in design and building technology. World’s fairs inevitably encourage competition, with every country striving to put their best foot forward at almost any cost. This carte blanche of sorts allows architects to eschew many of the programmatic constraints of everyday commissions and concentrate on expressing ideas in their purest form. Many masterworks such as Mies van der Rohe’s German Pavilion (better known as the Barcelona Pavilion) for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition are so wholeheartedly devoted to their conceptual approach that they could only be possible in the context of an Exposition pavilion.

To celebrate the opening of Expo Milano 2015 tomorrow, we’ve rounded up a few of history’s most noteworthy World Expositions to take a closer look at their impact on architectural development.

Garden Pavilion / Robert Edson Swain Architecture + Design

© Ken Gutmaker

Architects: Robert Edson Swain Architecture + Design
Location: , WA, USA
Area: 1125.0 ft2
Photographs: Ken Gutmaker , Courtesy of Robert Edson Swain Architecture + Design

Reclaimed Modern / Julian Weber Architects

© Tucker English

Architects: Julian Weber Architects
Location: , WA, USA
Area: 292.0 sqm
Year: 2014
Photographs: Tucker English

Capitol Hill Loft Renovation / SHED Architecture & Design

© Mark Woods

Architects: SHED Architecture & Design
Location: 1310 East Union Street, , WA 98122, USA
Contractor: Dolanbuilt Construction
Area: 1702.0 ft2
Year: 2015
Photographs: Mark Woods, James F. Housel

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Unveils Janet Echelman’s Latest Work: “Impatient Optimist” in Seattle

Janet Echelman / Impatient Optimist. Image © Ema Peter

A new aerial  by renowned artist Janet Echelman has been installed at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation campus in Seattle. Entitled “Impatient Optimist,” the sculpture consists of a custom net structure suspended above the courtyard, resulting in an ethereal floating surface which seems to defy gravity. The award-winning artist’s piece hovers above the city as a symbol of connectivity and stands as a testament to the impact an individual can have on a broader scale.

Burke Gilman House / Stettler Design

© Dale Lang

Architects: Stettler Design
Location: , WA, USA
Design Team: Daniel Stettler, Will Payne
Collaborators: Paul Michael Davis Design
Area: 2300.0 ft2
Year: 2012
Photographs: Dale Lang

Madison Park Tree House / First Lamp

© Tim Bies Photography

Architects: First Lamp
Location: Madison Park, , WA 98112, USA
Contractor:
Area: 3200.0 ft2
Year: 2014
Photographs: Tim Bies Photography

Get Playful on the Streets of Seattle with “Pop-Up! Street Furniture” from LMN Architects

© Trevor Dykstra

Downtown Seattle was transformed into a playground for people of all ages in September with Pop-Up! Street Furniture, an creative take on interactivity in the built environment. Eight movable modules combine to create endless configurations capable of forming either seating or play space for a dozen people. The project was realized by -based LMN Architects, leading an inter-disciplinary team of students, professionals, designers, manufacturers, and contractors, intent on stimulating ordinary streets in the city’s downtown core. Created for the Seattle Design Festival, the project created a temporary hub for conversation, play, and engagement.

Read more after the break on the many uses of Pop-Up! Street Furniture in Seattle

Nathan Hale High School Modernization / Mahlum

© Benjamin Benschneider

Architects: Mahlum
Location: 10750 30th Avenue Northeast, , WA 98125, USA
Area: 204000.0 ft2
Year: 2012
Photographs: Benjamin Benschneider

goCstudio Launches New Kickstarter to Fund Floating Sauna in Seattle

open hatch. Image Courtesy of

Seattle based firm goCstudio have designed a wood-fired floating , a project resonant with the culture of the Pacific Northwest. Aiming to begin construction in spring of 2015 and open in summer, the firm has recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the building of their first model. Easily transportable and accessible by kayak, the floating sauna fits within the dimensions of a standard size trailer. Providing a space of refuge and revitalization, along with a uniquely interactive way to experience the landscape of Seattle, the project, named “wa_sauna“, requires $43,000 to become a reality. Learn more about the project and how you can help at the firm’s Kickstarter page, here. More images after the break.

Health Sciences and Student Resources Building at North Seattle College / Schacht Aslani Architects

© Lara Swimmer

Architects: Schacht Aslani Architects
Location: 9600 College Way North, North College, , WA 98103, USA
Principal Architects: Walter Schacht, FAIA; Cima Malek-Aslani, AIA
Area: 46500.0 ft2
Year: 2014
Photographs: Lara Swimmer

Pagliacci Pizza / Floisand Studio

Courtesy of

Architects: Floisand Studio
Location: 4001 Stone Way North, , WA, USA
Area: 2,101 sqft
Year: 2013
Photographs: Courtesy of Floisand Studio

Brooks + Scarpa Design Park-And-Ride Plaza for Seattle Rail Station

© Brooks + Scarpa

Brooks + Scarpa has won a competition to design a new park-and-ride plaza for the future Angle Lake light rail station in . As part of the 1.6-mile South 200th Link Extension, which will connect Angle Lake to the airport and downtown area by 2016, the $30 million complex will provide the station’s anticipated 5,400 passengers with a pedestrianized plaza, drop-off and retail area, as well as a 1,050-stall parking garage and 35,000 square feet of reserved space for future transit-oriented development.

Courtyard House / DeForest Architects

© Benjamin Benschneider

Architects: DeForest Architects
Location: , WA, USA
Area: 4600.0 ft2
Year: 2012
Photographs: Benjamin Benschneider

Park Passive House / NK Architects

© Aaron Leitz

Architects: NK Architects
Location: Madison Park, , WA, USA
Area: 2,710 sqft
Year: 2013
Photographs: Aaron Leitz

Capitol Hill House / SHED Architecture & Design

© Mark Woods

Architects: SHED Architecture & Design
Location: , WA, USA
Area: 2458.0 ft2
Photographs: Mark Woods

Main Street House / SHED Architecture & Design

© Mark Woods

Architects: SHED Architecture & Design
Location: , WA, USA
Area: 2332.0 ft2
Photographs: Mark Woods

Bezos Center for Innovation / Olson Kundig Architects

© Lara Swimmer

Architects: Olson Kundig Architects
Location: 860 Terry Avenue North, , WA 98109, USA
Architect In Charge: Alan Maskin
Project Manager: Stephen Yamada-Heidner
Project Architect: Marlene Chen
Project Staff: Simon Clews
Year: 2013
Photographs: Lara Swimmer