Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Exposition, Societal Responsitivity and the Aesthetics of Impermanence: Temporal Findings from the 1970 World Exhibition

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posted on 2021-11-15, 05:40 authored by Moleta, Tane Jachob

The architecture of the world expositions maintains an historically unique position within the built environment. Raised specifically for the hosting of these temporary events, the architecture and design of the exposition grounds have been viewed in this thesis as a means to present the aspirations of a country. Expositions were also physical manifestations of the development of new tools, materials, techniques, or aesthetics, ushering in notions of change and progress. However, exhibition architecture can similarly be interpreted as a vehicle responding to the changing pressures within a society.  Both historical and contemporary reports locate the world expositions as highly anticipated for education, communication, enjoyment and even competition. Parallel to this, the international expositions have existed as an area of well resourced critical research. With over 150 years of exposition, the historical, political, social, urban and architectural aspects of these events have been increasingly explored as locations to identify and define avantgarde and progressive explorations in the moderation of space. In contrast to this, the world exposition of 1970 exists as a comparatively unexplored area of`study in the West. Expo’70, located in Osaka, Japan, was poorly received and heavily criticised in Western media sources. Academics, architects and critics slated the event as bizarre, ridiculous, and excessive, and one source even noted that Expo’70 had “brought about the end of the world fairs”. While perhaps some of these comments can be attributed to remoteness, and vastly unknown sensory experiences that many non-Japanese visitors would be exposed too, a difficulty in accessing first hand accounts from the Japanese themselves may also account for a lack of understanding within Western architectural discourse.  However, Expo’70 was, and still is, an important phenomenon in its native land. A search using Japanese language through any Japanese university library will return a vast collection of titles covering areas such as social science, politics, technology, and architecture. In response to these findings, this thesis locates the importance of the event to the Japanese as a whole. I propose that Expo’70 manifested a number of qualities or conditions that the Japanese society could locate within their existing aesthetic vocabularies, which are discussed and displayed in this thesis through both drawing and text. Within this context the drawn material operates an important strategy as both a mechanism of display and a means to explore the shifting and transitory spatial qualities that are discussed within the text. Rather than a turning point, the thesis argues that, Expo’70 existed as a form of vantage for Japanese society to observe the unfolding changes within their society, both material and immaterial.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Architecture

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


McCarthy, Christine