What has Expo92 meant to you guys individually growing up in Spain and living as professional architects in Seville today?
It could be said that Expo’92 is our generation’s collective child memory. We were born less than two years before the inauguration, but our parents carried their once-in-a-lifetime experience with them and made us participate from it over time.
Now that we have become architects, we thought about developing a project that could allow us to look back at our architectural ‘childhood’ and see whether it had fared well. From the beginning, we were surprised by how little we actually knew about the Expo and its buildings. It has been quite a nice adventure to learn about them precisely by drawing and highlighting their architectural features.
Which buildings remain today from the Expo? Are they well-regarded? Put to good use?
About half the pavilions were demolished, most of them immediately after the Expo but also in recent years. We have to keep in mind that they were mostly conceived as ephemeral; for example, the Japanese delegation and the architect, Tadao Ando, demanded the pavilion to be dismantled despite alleged efforts to keep it afterwards. On the other hand, we find it interesting that a few were relocated and can still be found all over the world, serving totally different purposes —the Danish pavilion, quite ironically, ended up in a Japanese garden.
As per the ones that were reused, they usually stir up mixed opinions. Some have been heavily altered to accommodate discopubs, planetariums, or institutional services alike. In recent years, there has been a effort to recover some of these structures from neglect, typically in order to host business- or administration-related uses, in line with the overall plan for the area to become a business district, but still with a lot of ground to cover as of today.
How do Sevillians typically view the event today?
We usually revisit the Expo with a nostalgic aura, as a turning point in our city’s history which marked a change for the better in many aspects. The most enduring legacy of the exposition was undoubtedly the infrastructure built to put the city in the map and receive 15.5 million visitors: high-speed train, airport, ring road, bridges, and even a new river course. It is only natural that most people hold it in such a high regard.
However, this excess of infrastructure proved too ambitious for the Expo enclosure itself. Monorail, cable car, water canal, sidewalks and gardens fell rapidly into disuse and are still an unresolved problem for the development of the area. We also tried to bring attention to this issue by developing an earlier project, ‘Gardens’, about the forgotten sculptural and living heritage of the Guadalquivir Gardens.
What are AaC’s favorite pavilions from Expo92?
There are a lot of interesting stories and features behind every pavilion, but our personal favorites are Finland —by Monark—, Hungary —a work of Imre Makovecz—, and Japan —as already noted, by Tadao Ando, who would go on to win the Pritzker Prize not long afterwards—. The first two are still standing and offer really innovative examples of pavilion architecture, even if probably underused by the citizenship at large.
Why is 2017 the right time to make something that celebrates this Expo?
2017 is the 25th anniversary of the exposition, so there has been a lot of attention brought in this direction by local media and independent associations. On the other hand, public institutions have mostly neglected this celebration and missed a crucial opportunity to solve some of the Expo’s pending subjects: integration with city life and the imaginative reuse of existing buildings and infrastructures.
Estas preguntas y respuestas forman parte de una entrevista inédita llevada a cabo con el medio CityLab en octubre de 2017.