Scroll to explore Innovation at the World Expo 1851 - now

In the context of the 34th World Expo opening in Milan this spring, Het Nieuwe Instituut addresses this phenomenon from different perspectives, between April 26 and August 23, in three exhibitions: What is the Netherlands, GLASS and Garden of Machines. The recurring question in the programme is: under what conditions is innovation achieved, and what role do designers play within that process?

Innovation at the World Expo 1851 - now

Since its inception a variety of differing ambitions have come together at the immensely popular World Expo. What prevails over all differences, however, is a strong faith in progress. In the most spectacular manner, the World Expo's – which have brought us iconic buildings such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Atomium in Brussels –presented a vision of a future where technological innovation is able to bring the unattainable closer. The ability of designers to capture the unseen forms an important incentive for Het Nieuwe Instituut to develop a comprehensive programme on the theme of the World Expo.

At the World Expo the latest developments in the field of engineering and industrial production are always connected to the cultural and social progress of countries and communities. More or less explicitly, each pavilion wants to reflect its national identity, while also showing its moral, political or economic superiority. Both the World Expo as a whole and the individual country pavilions are the result of coalitions between states, the market and socio-cultural institutions. Their ambitions are compressed into an architectural statement (the pavilion), a narrative (the exhibition), and a presentation model (media and objects). The focus is always put on the crucial role of (technological) innovation for national economies and cultures; critical questions are hardly ever put forward. But can innovation today still be defined in national terms? And what role can the cultural domain claim within the increasingly market-driven systems of innovation?