The History of World Expositions

The Seville World Exposition 1992
A historic site

Year: 1992
City: Sevilla
Country: Spain
Duration: 20th April - 12th October 1992


Manuel Olivencia Ruiz was named Commissioner of the world exposition on 7 November 1984, one year after the official application. Soon after this a corporation was set up to organise the event and a logo was designed. The site was to be the island of 'La Cartuja': a 215 hectare sliver of land sandwiched between the two arms of the River Guadalquivir, directly adjacent to the historic Old Town. The fact that the island was also the site of the Carthusian monastery of 'Santa Maria de las Cuevas' - very much in need of repair - provided a reminder that the home of the world exposition had also been temporary home to Christopher Columbus, who lived many years on the island and had actually been helped by the monks when preparing for his journey to unexplored lands far off across the wide Atlantic ocean.

A competition was organised in 1986 for the design of the EXPO site in which 20 participants presented their architectural concepts: the jury awarded the first two prizes to Jose Antonio Fernandez Ordoñez and Emilio Ambasz. The main criteria were that the designs should take the ambient climatic conditions of the region into account and include a concept for post-utilisation.

Ordoñez' design saw the pavilions laid out on a square grid pattern. A park was to be created along the banks of the river with the central pavilion located to the south of the monastery, opposite the old station. A giant sphere of almost 100 metres in diameter with a number of viewing platforms and a model of the planet was to be the architectural hallmark of the exposition. This was a response to the Atomium of the 1958 world exposition in Brussels.

The concept presented by Ambasz contrasted by focusing less on individual architectural elements and more on the landscaping aspect of the site: After the event there was not to be a ghost town or derelict wasteland left behind. His idea revolved around water - as the symbol for the bond between Spain and the New World. The pavilions were ranked along the Guadalquivir, to create, together with three artificial lakes, a site reminiscent of Venice with excellent access by water. This would have saved the need to build an expensive and - after EXPO- over-complex road network and would have bequeathed a landscape of lakes for subsequent development into a large park. The entire exposition site was to be upgraded with trees for the exposition, with a piping system at tree-top level (35 metres) to provide irrigation and also reduce outside temperatures.

These designs shared their almost Utopian character - and would have blown the planned budget wide apart. When the finalised general plan of Julio Cano Lasso was presented in 1987, only a small number of individual elements survived from the two prize winning concepts. The park landscape proposed by Ambasz was adapted by spreading the buildings further apart to create more space. The grid-like layout presented by Ordo ez was loosened up somewhat and shifted to be parallel to the river. The fact that the Old Town of Seville was only across the river made the new site appear more like an extension of the town than a separate entity. The borders of the grounds were created by a transverse axis to the west and a lake, the Lago de España, to the east. The north-south axis was created using greened roofed pathways and pergolas with a complex irrigation system while five broad avenues created links between the eastern and western ends.

EXPOSEEUM - The Museum of World Exhibitions, Hanover, Expo Plaza 11
Open every Sunday from 11 to 16