Most World’s Fair buildings are temporary, but some – including these 8 wonders – have become permanent fixtures.
Since the first World’s Fair (which goes by various other names, such as World Expo and Universal Exposition) in 1851, more than 50 fairs have been held to celebrate and share the marvels of modern technology, art and science. World’s Fairs draw huge crowds and the cities that serve as hosts have invested millions of dollars in creating an infrastructure to accommodate the events.
World’s Fair buildings are nearly always meant to be temporary, but a few have become fixed icons for modern sightseers. Here is a list of 8 World’s Fair Wonders that were spared the wrecking ball.
Eiffel Tower (Paris, France): This is certainly the most famous product of any World’s Fair. This monument, designed by engineer Gustave Eiffel, was designed to be the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair. The fair, called the Exposition Universelle, marked the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. At over 1,000 feet tall (that’s over 300 meters), the Eiffel Tower is the tallest building in Paris.
Memorial Hall (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA): The United States also celebrated its centennial with a World’s Fair. The 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia was the United States’ first big world fair and the Beaux-Arts style Memorial Hall was designed to showcase art exhibits. Today, the Hall is home to the Please Touch Museum, a children’s museum with interactive exhibits, including the Walking Piano, featured in the movie Big.
Royal Exhibition Building (Melbourne, Australia): The Royal Exhibition, Australia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, was constructed for the 1880 International Exhibition. The building also hosted the 1888 Centennial Exhibition and the first Parliament of Australia in 1901. The building is located among the Victorian-style Carlton Gardens, also part of the World Heritage Site. The building is still used for commercial exhibitions and is also open for regular tours.
Palace of Fine Arts (San Francisco, California, USA): The Palace of Fine Arts was created for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition to house artwork at the event. The Greek- and Roman-inspired architecture was designed by Bernard Maybeck to look like an ancient ruin. The palace has been heavily renovated, and in 1964 it was almost completely demolished and rebuilt. Today, the palace is home to the Exploratorium interactive museum and home of the Palace of Fine Arts Theater.
Palau Nacional (Barcelona, Spain): The Palau Nacional was built during the three years leading up to the 1929 World’s Fair as the exhibition hall for 5,000 Spanish works of art during the event. The Spanish renaissance-style building is located on the city’s Montjuïc hill. Today, it houses the Museu d’Art de Catalunya, featuring Catalan and European art from the 11th century to present day. In front of the museum is the Font Màgica (Magic Fountain), which becomes a synchronized water show on summer evenings.
Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago, Illonois, USA): The former Palace of Fine Arts was constructed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, which celebrated the 400th year of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New World. Since its construction, the Palace of Fine Arts has housed several museums, including the Columbian Museum and the Field Museum of Natural History. The Museum of Science and Industry first opened in 1933 and today houses more than 2,000 exhibits, including an interactive coal mining experience and a walk-through model of a human heart.
The Atomium (Brussels, Belgium): The 335-foot (102-meter) Atomium was built for Expo ’58 in Brussels. The structure consists of nine steel spheres connected by 12 vertices to mimic the shape of a unit cell. The monument was originally intended to be temporary, but became a popular symbol of the era and has been made a permanent and very popular fixture in Brussels. Six of the nine spheres are open to the public and accessible by escalator. (Photo © www.atomium.be – SABAM 2010)
Space Needle & Seattle Center (Seattle, Washington, USA): The Space Needle and surrounding Seattle Center were designed for the 1962 Century 21 Exposition. The Space Needle was designed to withstand earthquakes of a magnitude of up to 9.1 and Category 5 hurricane-force winds. The structure is 605 feet (184 meters) tall and when it was created, it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. Near the Space Needle, fair planners also constructed a monorail to take visitors from downtown Seattle to the exposition site. Today, the Space Needle has a rotating restaurant and gift shop at the top and an elevator takes visitors to the top at a rate of 10 miles per hour.