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Expo '70

Expo '70

Space frame roof of the Festival Plaza, Osaka Expo, 1970

Space frame roof of the Festival Plaza, Osaka Expo, 1970

Expo '70 (日本万国博覧会, Nihon Bankoku Hakuran-kai) was a world's fair held in Suita, Osaka, Japan, between March 15 and September 13, 1970. The theme of the Expo was "Progress and Harmony for Mankind." In Japanese, Expo '70 is often referred to as Osaka Banpaku (大阪万博, Ōsaka Banpaku). This was the first world's fair held in Japan.

The master plan for the Expo was designed by the Japanese architect Kenzo Tange helped by 12 other Japanese architects who designed elements within it. Bridging the site along a north/south axis was the Symbol Zone. Planned on three levels it was primarily a social space which had a unifying space frame roof.

1970 Osaka
BIE-classUniversal exposition
CategoryFirst category General Exposition
NameExpo 70
MottoProgress and Harmony for Mankind
BuildingSymbol Zone's space frame
Area330 hectares (820 acres)
Countries78 along with 4 international organizations
Coordinates34°48′31″N 135°32′6.8″E [28]
AwardedMay 11, 1966 (1966-05-11)
OpeningMarch 15, 1970 (1970-03-15)
ClosureSeptember 13, 1970 (1970-09-13)
Universal expositions
PreviousExpo 67 in Montreal
NextSeville Expo '92 in Seville
Specialized Expositions
PreviousHemisFair '68 in San Antonio
NextExpo 71 in Budapest
Horticultural expositions
PreviousParis 1969 in Paris
NextFloriade (Netherlands) 1972 in Amsterdam


Osaka Expo'70 Kodak & Ricoh Pavilion

Osaka Expo'70 Kodak & Ricoh Pavilion

Osaka was chosen as the site for the 1970 World Exposition by the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) in 1965. 330 hectares in the Senri Hills outside Osaka had been earmarked for the site and a Theme Committee under the chairmanship of Seiji Kaya was formed. Kenzo Tange and Uzo Nishiyama were appointed to produce the master plan for the Expo. The main theme would be Progress and Harmony for Mankind. Tange invited 12 other architects to elucidate designs for elements within the master plan. These architects included: Arata Isozaki for the Festival Plaza mechanical, electrical and electronic installations; and Kiyonori Kikutake for the Landmark Tower.[1]

Master plan

Two main principles informed the master plan. The first was the idea that the wisdom of all the peoples of the world would come together in this place and stimulate ideas; the second was that it would be less of an exposition and more of a festival. The designers thought that unlike previous expositions they wished to produce a central, unifying, Festival Plaza where people could meet and socialise. They called this the Symbol Zone and covered it and the themed pavilions with a giant space frame roof.[2]

The designers liked the idea that like the 1851 Great Exhibition in London, the roof of the Symbol Zone could be a unifying entity for the expo. They did not want the constraint imposed by the London Exhibition of having everything contained under one roof, so the space frame contained only the Festival Plaza and themed pavilions. Tange compared the concept to a tree. The idea was that although the national pavilions were like individual flowers they needed to be connected to the whole via branches and a trunk. Thus the Symbol Zone became the trunk and the moving pedestrian walkways and sub-plazas became the branches. These elements were reinforced with colour, with the trunk and branches in plain white and the pavilions in their own colours that were determined by the national architects.[3]

The Symbol Zone ran north/south across the site, spanning an arterial road running east/west. The Festival Plaza was to the north of road and had the main gate on its southern end. To the north of the main gate and central to the Festival Plaza was the Tower of the Sun from which visitors could join pedestrian walkways that travelled out towards the north, south, east and west gates.[4]

The Theme Space under the space frame was divided into three levels, each designed by the artist Tarō Okamoto, The underground level represented the past and was a symbol of the source of humanity. The surface level represented the present, symbolising the dynamism of human interaction. The space frame represented the future and a world where humanity and technology would be joined. Tange envisioned that the exhibition for the future would be like an aerial city and he asked Fumihiko Maki, Noboru Kawazoe, Koji Kamiya and Noriaki Kurokawa to design it. The Theme Space was also punctuated by three towers: the Tower of the Sun, the Tower of Maternity and the Tower of Youth.[5]

To the north of the Theme Space was the Festival Plaza. This was a flexible space that contained a flat area and stepped terrace. The plaza could be rearranged to provide for different requirements for seating capacity, from 1500 to 10000. The flexibility extended to the lighting and audio visual equipment allowing for a range of musical performances and electronic presentations.[6] Festival Plaza was covered by the world's first large-scale, transparent membrane roof. It was designed by Tange and structural engineer Yoshikatsu Tsuboi + Kawaguchi & Engineers. Measuring 75.6 m in width and 108 m in length, it was 30 m high and supported by only six lattice columns.[7]

Seventy-seven countries participated in the event, and within six months the number of visitors reached 64,218,770, making Expo '70 one of the largest and best attended expositions in history. It held the record for most visitors at an Expo until it was surpassed by the Shanghai World Expo in 2010.

Major pavilions

Canadian Pavilion

Canadian Pavilion

The Korean (left-center, in the distance) and West German (foreground) Pavilions (far background: Tower of the Sun)

The Korean (left-center, in the distance) and West German (foreground) Pavilions (far background: Tower of the Sun)

  • The Canadian Pavilion, designed by architect Arthur Erickson, featured two National Film Board of Canada productions: The Land, a look at Canada from coast to coast, filmed for the most part from a low-flying aircraft,[8] as well as the animated short The City, directed by Kaj Pindal.[9][10] Montreal artist and architect Melvin Charney had submitted a radically different design for the Canadian pavilion, fashioned from construction cranes and scaffolding, which was rejected.[11]

  • The West German pavilion, designed by Fritz Bornemann, featured the world's first spherical concert hall, based on artistic concepts by Karlheinz Stockhausen. The pavilion theme was "gardens of music", in keeping with which Bornemann "planted" the exhibition halls beneath a broad lawn, with the connected auditorium "sprouting" above ground. Inside, the audience was surrounded by 50 loudspeaker groups in seven rings at different "latitudes" around the interior walls of the sphere. Sound was sent around the space in three dimensions using either a spherical controller designed by Fritz Winckel of the Electronic Music Studio at the Technical University of Berlin, or a ten-channel "rotation mill" constructed to Stockhausen's design.[12] Works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Bernd Alois Zimmermann, and Boris Blacher were played from multi-track tape. As the main feature, however, Stockhausen was invited to present five-and-a-half-hour live programs of his music every day over a period of 183 days to a total audience of about a million listeners.[13] In the course of the exhibition, 19 performers in Stockhausen's ensemble gave concerts for over a million visitors.[14] "Many visitors felt the spherical auditorium to be an oasis of calm amidst the general hubbub, and after a while it became one of the main attractions of Expo 1970".[15]

  • The USSR Pavilion was the tallest in the fairgrounds, a sweeping red and white design by Soviet architect Mikhail V. Posokhin.[16]

  • The U.S. Pavilion was an air-supported dome, a joint design by two American firms: architects Davis Brody and designers Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv.

  • The Netherlands Pavilion was the work of Carel Weeber and Jaap Bakema.[17]

Other attractions

A popular highlight of the fair was a large moon rock on display in the United States' pavilion. It had been brought back from the moon by Apollo 12 astronauts in 1969.

Expo '70 also saw the premiere of the first-ever IMAX film: the Canadian-produced Tiger Child for the Fuji Group pavilion.

The Expo also featured demonstrations of early mobile phones, local area networking and maglev train technology.


The site of Expo '70 is now Expo Commemoration Park. Almost all pavilions have been demolished, but a few memorials remain, including part of the roof for Festival Plaza designed by Tange. The most famous of the still-intact pieces is Okamoto Taro's Tower of the Sun. The former international art museum pavilion designed by Kiyoshi Kawasaki was used as the building for the National Museum of Art, Osaka until March 2004 (the museum moved to downtown Osaka in November 2004).

Additionally, there is a time capsule that is to be left for 5,000 years and opened in the year 6970. The capsule was donated by Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. The concept creating time capsules at world's fairs started with the two Westinghouse Time Capsules, which are to be opened in 6939.

Osaka successfully bid for Expo 2025 alongside Yekaterinburg, Russia and Baku, Azerbaijan. However, the world’s fair will not reuse the park space, and will instead be hosted on Yumeshima island in Konohana, on the waterfront of Osaka Bay.[18].

  • Expo '70 is the setting for the Daiei Motion Picture Company production of Noriaki Yuasa's Gamera vs. Jiger (1970), which was extensively filmed on location at the Expo grounds. The final battle between the monsters takes place at the Expo site. The film was marketed overseas as Monsters Invade Expo '70.

  • Expo '70 is the main setting for the Canadian director Robert Lepage's 1998 film entitled , based on his play The Seven Branches of the River Ota.

  • Director Douglas Trumbull said that the design of the space freighter Valley Forge in the 1971 science fiction drama Silent Running was inspired by the Landmark Tower.

  • Expo' 70 play a central role in the plot of the Naoki Urasawa's manga 20th Century Boys

  • Expo '70 is the climax setting for the Tamil film Ulagam Sutrum Valiban directed by M. G. Ramachandran.

Kamen rider episode 7 was filmed on the fairgrounds of expo 70

See also

  • List of world's fairs

  • Osaka Expo '70 Stadium

  • Expo Commemoration Park

  • Expoland


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