US Pop Culture in A Globe? The 2020 LA World’s Fair & a Peek at Expo 67’s American Pavilion

The American Pavilion, known as the Biosphere, at the 1967 Montreal World's Fair. (aqua-velvet.com)

The American Pavilion, known as the Biosphere, at the 1967 Montreal World’s Fair. (aqua-velvet.com)

It’s been a long time, but the first big American World’s Fair is being planned for Los Angeles in the year 2020.

The logo of the 2020 Los Angeles World's Fair.

The logo of the 2020 Los Angeles World’s Fair.

What will one find in the U.S. Pavilion of the Future?

A look back at one of the Pop Culture high points of World’s Fairs, the one which took place in 1967 in Montreal, Canada, known as “Expo ’67” might prompt some thinking.

Native American feathered headdresses.  Mousetraps. Andy Warhol and Roy Lichenstein pop art.

Parachutes.

Parachutes.

Shriner hats. Bakers hats. Hardhats. Naval hats.

Wood-carved hunting duck decoys. John Wayne (and Mae West, of course) in outsized larger-than-life posters. Apple trees.

Hollywood panels.

Hollywood panels.

Astronaut chairs. Apollo space capsules.A lunar module.

Neon. Raggedy Ann dolls. The U.S. Marine Corps. Elvis Presley’s guitar. Inventions. Latino-American wood sculptures.

Slave shackles. The Wright Brothers plane. Cowboy six-shooters. Hula skirts. Presidential campaign buttons.

Horse saddles and spurs. Alaskan totem poles. Bibles.

The good, the  bad, the old, the modern, the beautiful, the ugly.

Experiencing the space of the US Pavilion was itself central to the visit.

Experiencing the space of the US Pavilion was itself central to the visit.

All that was American Culture in the year of 1967 was captured and displayed for a brief moment in time for all the citizens of the world to admire, disdain, question and giggle over.

Costumes. Telephones. Kites. Am American eagle. An American  Elm tree.

Pink Florida Flamingo birds. A yellow cab. A Japanese-American garden.

All of this and more, however, was made all the more appealing by the unique and rather timeless “modern” structure it was all displayed in.

An express tram ran through the Biosphere.

An express tram ran through the Biosphere.

The “Biosphere” was designed by visionary Buckminster Fuller as a globe. Interior designers structured into it platform levels, staircases and escalators that were more likes conveyer belts moving people. Reaching the top level, visitors were afforded a breathtaking view of the entire fair.

And so, it begs the questions…

What ideas should be conveyed in a United States Pavilion for the 2020 Los Angeles World’s Fair?

What objects, items, and exhibits should be used to convey those ideas?

Jackie Kennedy arriving at Expo '67.

Jackie Kennedy arrives at Expo ’67.

What type of structure should be built to house it all?

2020 may sound futuristic, but its only seven years away.

All readers are encouraged to contribute their own ideas here. And further, anyone interested in helping to organize and involve themselves in all aspects of the planning of the event can do so at the 2020 Los Angeles World’s Fair website, where a form is available.

And if you just like the idea, at least sign the petition of support!

Yes, of course, the money to do it all has to be be found first.

Nevertheless, for a little inspiration, here’s a fantastic short film about the Expo ’67’s American Pavilion by some of its creators:


Categories: History, Past Futures

9 replies »

  1. Ecology, clean air, greener building materials and the way we dump, farm, manufacture, etc. My first thought was the future of technology and, no doubt, that will be a focus of the 2020 World’s Fair, but the nature lover in me feels strongly about the need for cleaner air (a real problem in LA where the Fair will be held and Indonesia where the haze from, often illegally set forest fires have caused some of the worst air pollution levels in Singapore). It would be amazing to see what a future world could look like if we were united in our quest for an environmentally healthy world. Idealistic, yes (my middle name).

    • Fantastic, thanks for those ideas. Are there specific objects currently in our lives or which you imagine will, might or should be that you think are likely to appear in a US Pavilion at the 2020 World’s Fair? And I don’t think any of those ideas are unrealistic, only that the perpetual human effort to attain, retain and increase power and wealth among even well-intentioned induvudyals is a greater reality often at cross-purposes with those you list.

      • That’s a challenging question you asked. Because it’s just the way my mind works, I’ve broadened your question to include not just the U.S. but the 7 continents. Here’s some thoughts:

        1. All continents represented with their brightest minds doing presentations (like TED talks) but strictly presenting on their unique environmental challenges and what workable solutions they have come up with in regard to those specific challenges.

        2. Actual futuristic working structures (see links below)

        Popular Science:

        http://www.popsci.com/environment/article/2010-06/physalia-life-aquatic

        http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2010-06/future-eco-friendly-architecture-live-power-plant

        Ecofriend:

        http://www.ecofriend.com/vertical-farming-the-new-agriculture-option-for-the-future.html

        3. Green homes, condos, transportation. What they will look like and the types of energy being used to run them.

        4. We certainly don’t want to live entirely in man-made eco-bubbles so there would be a major focus on new technological advances to clean our oceans and other water resources and protect our natural landscapes and its wild inhabitants. I don’t know how or if it could be accomplished, but it would be amazing to hear about those advances and perhaps see actual demonstrations while walking through a series of landscapes that reproduced as accurately as possible the climate/vegetation, animals (within reason, ☺), birds, etc. of the 7 continents.

        Thanks for getting me to think more about this!

        • First of all forgive me for such a tardy response – been doing so much else on deadline. But I appreciate your ideas – I wish some others had thought about some, but I am sure there will be more to come as 2020 gets closer. I like the idea of live lectures – not taped ones. I’m sure there will be overwhelming tech involved so a touch of the real person to person might prove novel.

          I think your ideas on futuristic working structures and green transpo and homes are ideal for a World’s Fair – it actually evokes some of the 1950s and 1960s Monsanto homes of the Future where everything was plastic. How very human for them to do that then and for us to look back in hindsight and laugh, even shudder a bit. Even though these homes of the future are ultimately idealistic, they do forward a sense of the larger point of what can be achieved in “better living in the near future,” even if the fruition never quite pans out the way they predict.

          Thank you for the effort and energy and thought you put into your idea. I hope others might follow….

          • Laughing…yes, the Monsanto “futuristic” homes of the 1950s. When it came time to tear it down, the wrecking ball bounced right off the plastic! They ended up having to cut through it in sections. Good God I hope we are smarter now but I guess we’ll have to wait until 2020 to find out.
            No worries about response time. When it comes to a personal blog, there are no deadlines. At least not in my book.

          • That’s really funny – didn’t know that about the Monsanto house. In any given age, the humans always perceive themselves as being the most advanced and knowledgeable – only to find out twenty years later how much more they didn’t know or understand. Thanks for the great engagement on this.

  2. I think California needs its own pavilion! All the good stuff comes from here… giggle. I am local-centric, I guess. But seriously, between Hollywood and Silicon Valley – the beaches, mountains and redwoods… we could easily fill that dome.

    • Whitney – That is absolutely dead-on one of the best ideas I can imagine. A California Pavilion, apart from an American Pavilion. I just came across a letter written in 1850 by future President James Buchanan, talking about the uniqueness of California and how it was so huge and so diverse that the national government should break it up into smaller states because otherwise it would have so much power compared to the rest of the country that it could always break away and be a strong nation of its own. Thanks for that idea.

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