Universal Expositions are events created to celebrate human progress and ingeniousness and are managed by the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE).
The first was held in London in 1851 and, up to the beginning of the 20th century, they were large trade fairs in which to sell products – from elevators to cannons, telephones, and combustion engines – and to present the latest scientific breakthroughs to visitors. Over the years, they started attracting an ever-vaster public, turning into a combination of museum, department store, town fair and amusement park.
With the passing of time, the recreational and spectacular aspects became increasingly important: sports events, painting exhibitions, circus performances and futuristic constructions were progressively added on to the exhibition proper. This was the case of the Eiffel Tower in Paris in 1889, of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco in 1939, of the Geodesic Dome in Montreal in 1967 and the Vasco da Gama Bridge in Lisbon in 1998. Also Rome’s EUR business district was built for an Expo that was scheduled to take place in 1942 but then never came to be.
Starting from 1998, with Lisbon’s Expo dedicated to “The Oceans, a Heritage for the Future”, along with the field of engineering, mechanics and technology, art and the “softer” sciences also began to take centre stage.
Nowadays Expos are both trade fairs and scientific and cultural exhibitions held in the world’s most important cities.
Expo Milano 2015
The last Universal Exposition took place in Milan, from the 1st of May to the 31st of October 2015.
The event was dedicated to the theme of food security and quality, “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”, and referred to the new debate on the development of a sustainable food production chain and to the decisive relaunching of research and innovation in this sector. The Expo recorded 139 official participants – 134 Countries and 5 International Organizations (including the UN and the European Commission) – and 24 unofficial participants – civil society organizations and large corporations.
It recorded more than 21 million visitors, including 6.5 million foreigners.
The Region of Lazio jointly participated in Expo 2015 through a joint project putting together the Regional Council, Roma Capitale, the Provinces, the Municipalities, trade associations and universities.
In addition to Lombardy, it was the only Italian Region to have an exhibition space of its own and it chose to narrate its identity through 8 major themes:
- “Food and Tourism: Roma Capitale goes global”, on the centrality of Rome in international food policies (also thanks to the presence of FAO, WFP and IFAD).
- “The Course of Water”, dedicated to water as a cultural, historic and economic resource.
- “Cities and the Countryside: Interactions” explored the ancient and new relation between urban and agricultural areas.
- “Grow Better: points of excellence and sustainability“, revealed a continuity between history, local products and innovation.
- “Genius and Innovation”, entirely dedicated to scientific and technological research.
- “Origin and Quality” was a showcase for the Region’s best products.
- Lastly, “All Roads Lead to Rome” and “The Central Area of the Roman Forum” were dedicated to the projects promoted by Roma Capitale for the regeneration of the city’s archaeological heritage.
The stand of the Region, inside Palazzo Italia, hosted approximately 2 million visitors from all over the world: a very vast international public was able to get into contact with start-ups, projects and products and with Lazio’s enormous heritage of beauty.
The Expo was a great success also in the Region of Lazio, with more than 500 events organized in the regional territory thanks to the contribution and the efforts of 11 scientific coordinators of excellence, universities and the Region’s most important research centres which involved over 270 companies and thousands of citizens.
Expo Astana 2017
Then, in 2017, Kazakhstan hosted the Special Expo dedicated to Future Energy, which touched upon the themes of responsible and efficient energy production and sustainability, with a special focus on renewable energy sources.
The Lazio Region was a key player at the Italy Pavilion at Expo Astana, which ran from 24 to 29 July, by illustrating several projects dedicated to energy saving, new energy production and storage systems (also through innovative materials such as Graphene or Perovskite), electric mobility and much more, together with more “industrial” research sectors such as the Aerospace industry and Nuclear Fusion. These projects are exemplary of the great regional heritage of knowledge, capacity for innovation and entrepreneurship.
The very same Italy Pavilion was designed by one of our Region’s most important architecture firms, Paolo Desideri’s A.B.D.R. Architetti Associati; it was laid out in 4 Piazzas, the emblem of Italian cities since the beginning of time and the heart of the Country’s religious, secular and economic power, a place representing the crossroads and osmosis of cultures and traditions, named after scientists symbolizing Italian Genius and the progress of Humankind: Antonio Pacinotti, Enrico Fermi, Alessandro Volta and Leonardo da Vinci.