The History of World Expositions

The Vienna World Exposition 1873
An international city: the Exposition Site and its key theme

Year: 1873
City: Vienna
Country: Austria
Duration: 1st may - 31st october 1873





Copyright: Leipziger Illustrierte Zeitung, 24.5.1873

Although construction measures such as the Danube channel or the gentrification of the Wurstelprater were hotly disputed, the Exposition Committee was convinced that they had created the ideal backdrop for the prestigious World Exposition project in the form of the Prater park with its mature trees and landscaped lakes and streams. As the "most glorious natural park" it formed "a wonderful environment for this majestic cultural display" and made a major contribution to "considerably enhancing the artistic impact of the buildings planned for the site".

Bounded to the north by the station, to the south by the chic Prater Avenue opened in 1867, to the west by the Volksprater, and to the east by the Heustadelwasser with the adjacent Prater water meadows, the World Exposition Site covered an area five times as large as the Champs de Mars of the 1867 Paris World Exposition. The original idea of creating an "international city" in the form of numerous different national pavilions was rejected by Schwarz-Senborn in favour of a central exposition building for industrial products, machinery and the arts. The Industrial Palace with its Rotunda was the architectural highlight of the exposition. The Exposition Site was divided up into five east-west running zones: the southernmost was the park which led to the Industrial Palace and to the buildings dedicated to the arts. On show to the visitors here was a broad spectrum of international restaurants and cafés such as the Chinese Teahouse, examples of different types of housing, the reading rooms, and the Jury and Kaiser Pavilions. The third zone showcased agricultural products and special exhibitions. This was followed to the north by the Machine Hall and the last zone bordering the north station which included exhibitions of industrial worker's housing from different countries, and the World Trade Pavilion. The entrances to the Exposition Site were in the north from the exposition station, in the south via the main gateway, the entrance to the round tower, and from the Volksprater via the west entrance of the Machine Hall and the west entrance of the Industrial palace.

Although the key themes were housed in the main exposition halls, there were already signs at the Vienna Exposition of the trend towards nationally-focused exhibition concepts which would eventually lead away from a pure showcase of products to the self-depiction of countries in their own pavilions. This is evidenced by the generous areas between the exposition halls set aside for national pavilions and social exhibitions. Another indication of this trend is the architectural layout of the Exposition Palace in which the countries were arranged from west to east according to their geographical location, and the housing of national presentations in their own side galleries with their own entrances. This did not, however, mean that the countries depicted themselves objectively. On the one hand, the colonial powers presented their acquisitory intentions towards non-European areas, whilst the whole exhibition was completely dominated by the Austrian contribution. Moreover, whilst the western industrial countries primarily showcased technical or industrial achievements - such as the life-size copy of the entrance to the new Mont-Cenis-Tunnel - non-European countries presented themselves and their cultures in an ethnic manner. Replicas of the temple of Kyoto in the industrial palace or an Egyptian tent with authentic interior decoration and matching costume-clad dummies were intended to graphically demonstrate other lifestyles. In addition, the exposition was also used to establish business contacts with industrial nations - e.g. by Japan through its presentation of export goods.

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