World Expos have always been large, global events and therefore the greatest meeting point of political representation. Such events raise many issues related to the representation of nations and other participants.
Of course this question is not specific to the Expo format: it is present in all international issues and events, from immigration policies to environmental congresses.
We looked at all the entities that by necessity or choice are not taking part in the Expo. Emerging countries are emblematic of this transformation: they would be entitled to participate in the classic format of national political manifestation, nevertheless many of them don’t see the relevance of taking part.
In the diagram of the G20 you can see which countries are not taking part in the Expo at the moment. Our proposal is to imagine an Expo model for all those subjects who are now excluded.
Why are these countries not participating now? And how should the Expo change in such a way that they will come to Rotterdam 2025?
Actually many of them are already there.
Rotterdam, like many other ports over the centuries, is a multicultural city, with all the related issues and potential; cities like Rotterdam are after all what the Expo aims to be.
The ethnic make-up of the foreign residents in the city is very diverse, and there is also a large population of temporary residents in Rotterdam to work or study..
International communities are already pillars of the urban fabric but separated, each one with it’s own festivity, calendar, and rituals.
Organising an event like this offers the opportunity to propose a radically inclusive model for future cities that exploits the potential of international communities and works on a strategy to update the colonial or postcolonial relationship that Western countries still aim to maintain with the rest of the world.
Taking the urban make-up as our point of departure, we developed a strategic plan to start a process today to make Expo a transformative urban practice.
Beside nations there are many communities which aim to develop such a platform for local and global resonance; international communities already have commercial and cultural activities in the city which could enrich the event as much as national representatives.
You could imagine even multiple or para-national representations as in the case of Catalonia, Kurdistan, Palestine, or even countries like Burma where refugees or migrants could give a diametrically opposed representation of the state, especially when the state is not participating.
For example: Suriname, Indonesia and other former Dutch colonies now constitute part of the Dutch identity. As the Expo has been also a main stage for colonial power parades, embedding those communities who are already representing themselves abroad could be retrieval and a different function of this event.
Festivals like Keti Koti, Kwaku, which celebrates every year the emancipation from slavery, could become a format for integration and a generative format for the expo.
In many global events and major works the planning misses a dimension that integrates it with the surrounding area and with an increasingly unstable international situation.
The expo is very much affected by the macro political context, however the approach of hosting countries is very much frozen in top-down planning, whereby host cities are proposed 10 years in advance and often constitute a vision which is already obsolete when it is presented.. A generative planning process could result in a crowd-planned city, a truly multi-cultural proposal that could serve as a contrast to protectionist EU immigration policy. .
Zeno Franchini – Design Academy, Eindhoven
Liset Geerlings – HKU: Design/Mode
Aleksei Kanin – Academy of Architecture, Amsterdam