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World’s Fairs - EXPOs

More than 160 years ago, in 1851, the first world’s fair took place in London. It proved to be a huge success - one that was subsequently repeated by numerous international exhibitions. Bu with the growing number (and declining success) of these events a sanctioning body became necessary: The Convention Relating to International Exhibitions was adopted in 1928 - with Austria being one of its founding member states.

The Bureau International des Expositions or BIE (International Exhibitions Bureau) was established in Paris to manage this Convention, with membership open to all countries. Currently the BIE counts 170 member states, among them Austria, with the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs as the lead.

What kinds of World’s Fairs are there?

The Convention distinguishes two categories of EXPOs:

  • 'International Registered Exhibitions' or 'World EXPOs': These large-scale events focusing on a universal topic take place every five years, lasting up to six months. The size of the exhibition area is not limited by the Convention.
  • 'International Recognized Exhibitions' or 'Specialized EXPOs': These events have a more narrowly defined theme, last no more than three months and have a limited size of the exhibition area of a maximum of 25 hectares.

Austria has participated in the vast majority of EXPOs, hosting once in 1873 in Vienna (theme “Culture and Education).

Upcoming World’s Fairs

EXPO 2020 Dubai

Dubai, the largest city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), will host a registered World EXPO from October 2020 to April 2021. The motto 'Connecting Minds, Creating the Future' will be divided into three sub-themes: Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability. EXPO Dubai will be the first world’s fair held in the MENA (Middle East Northern Africa) region, with the organizers expecting 180 participants and 25 million visitors.

The UAE are Austria’s most important trading partner in the region with Dubai especially serving as a hub for Austrian companies. Austria has announced its participation in 2017, funded and organized, as in the past, by the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs together with the Austrian Federal Economic Chambers. Austria will build its own pavilion, located in the “Opportunity” district, between the pavilions of Switzerland and China.

Der Österreich-Pavillon von außen
The Austrian pavilion "in dialogue with austria"; ©Querkraft Architekten

The Austrian pavilion will combine Arabic building traditions with Austrian know-how, joining the advantages of high- and low-tech solutions. The result will be a pavilion with significantly lower energy needs due to natural cooling. The architecture will also provide an interesting backdrop to the exhibition within the pavilion, showcasing Austria as a world leader in digitalization, high-tech, science and research.

Der Österreich-Pavillon von innen
The Austrian pavilion "in dialogue with austria"; ©Querkraft Architekten

The Austrian pavilion will also offer Austrian hospitality, coffee and sweets at a traditional Kaffeehaus, inviting visitors to stay, relax and communicate.

Throughout the six months of EXPO Dubai, economic and cultural events will accompany Austria’s participation. The highlight will be the Austrian National Day, taking place on November 12, 2020.

Further information on Austria’s participation can be found here.

Most recent World’s Fairs

More than 60 World’s Fairs have taken place to date, the most recent ones in Aichi/Japan 2005, Zaragoza/Spain 2008, Shanghai/PRC 2010, Yeosu/South Korea 2012, Milan/Italy 2015 and Astana/Kazakhstan 2017.

EXPO 2017 Astana

The Kazakh capital Astana (since renamed Nur-Sultan) hosted a specialized EXPO on the theme 'Future Energy' from June to September of 2017. 115 countries and 22 international organizations participated, with more than 3.8 million visitors.

The area of EXPO 2017 Astana; © EXPO Astana photo: EXPO Astana

Austria interpreted the theme with a contribution entitled 'With brain, heart and muscle power – The Austrian Power machine'. In a hall, shared with the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Latvia, Greece and Switzerland, Austria presented its topic on 900 m² in a playful manner. The presentation won the iF Design Award and the Red Dot Award for innovative design.

Austrian Power Machine bunt
“The Austrian Power Machine”; © expoaustria photo: expoaustria

But Austria was present at EXPO Astana in other ways as well: four out of only 23 award-winning projects at the 'Energy Best Practice Area' were from Austria, and three Austrian companies were involved in the construction of the EXPO grounds.

EXPO 2015 Milan

Milan was host of a World Exhibition taking place from May to October 2015 with the motto 'Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life'.

Austria interpreted this theme by putting the most important food into focus: air. Titled 'breathe.austria', the Austrian pavilion showcased a forest ecosystem including around 12,000 trees and plants.

This ecosystem not only lowered the temperature within the pavilion without air conditioning but also generated oxygen for 1,800 people per hour. Rooftop photovoltaic panels made the Austrian pavilion energy-neutral - meaning it produced more electricity than it needed.

Der österreichische Beitrag "breathe.austria" auf der EXPO Milano 2015
Inside the Austrian pavilion; © expoaustria photo: ARTWORK COMPANY

The public was wowed by this concept: more than 2.4 million visitors went to see the Austrian pavilion, sometimes queuing for hours. The pavilion was also awarded several prizes, among them awards by the EXPO organizer and the Italian Ministry of the Environment.

Upcoming World’s Fairs

EXPO 2025 Osaka-Kansai

The next Registered International Exhibition to follow Dubai will take place in Japan in 2025, under the topic 'Designing Future Society for Our Lives' [link:]. Osaka-Kansai prevailed over Baku/Azerbaijan and Ekaterinburg/Russia in the ballot cast by BIE member states in November of 2018.

EXPO Osaka-Kansai will take place from May to November 2025, on an artificial island bordering the city. This will be the second time a World’s Fair will be hosted in the Japanese city of Osaka, after EXPO 1970.