Thursday, 30 December 2010

A World's Fair look into the future

A World's Fair look into the future

This originally came to my attention last week just after I had posted my "last blog before Christmas", so I held it back until now. It seems more fitting to do a post about retro-futurism as the new year looms, anyway.

What it must have been like to have attended one of these fantastical shows I can scarcely imagine. It amazes me that, with the Depression in full swing and another world war looming, they were put on at all. It's almost as if a blind eye was being turned against the troubles of the world but then, that is was escapism is all about really. It is a wonderful testament to the human qualities of hope and imagination that, even in the face of so much trouble, people were willing to dream and look to the future in so grandiose a fashion.

We mostly look back now at these visions of the future with a mixture of derision and regret. By applying Thirties Modernism to conjure up an idea of the future as it then was these fairs created buildings, machines and furniture in a style that appeals to us vintage fans today. Streamlining, geometric lines, dark woods mixed with metals and giant domes and spires makes what we have today look cheap and staid by comparison and leaves us wondering - why couldn't it be like that now? On the other hand the idea of a smoking robot housekeeper is a rather far-fetched bit of silliness. Still, this is what retro-futurism is all about - to us, some aspects of the present haven't turned out as well as forefathers envisioned they would, so we look back and marvel at some of the designs and inventions that people 70 or 80 years ago thought we would be using today.

It remains in a sense a snapshot of the period for, although this was a glimpse into the future, it was done using the styles of the time so it is only the past's idea of another age (confused yet?). However you choose to look at it though there's no denying that they were amazing yet sadly unfulfilled flights of fancy.


  1. Have you used this site before?

    I discovered it recently, amazing photos of several Worlds Fairs. I love looking at the industry stands, the scope and scale is amazing considering they did not have the technologies and materials we take for granted when we think of advertising etc'.

  2. very interesting, indeed. To extend this, I love when I see fashion designers looking back to 30s retrofuturism (often drawing from what was then surrealistic/modernistic/futuristic design) for fresh looks circa 2010/11. So, in a way, some of the designs or ideas about the future that weren't realized in the lifetimes of the original futurists may still yet be revived or created?

  3. I was watching trashy TV recently (One of the CSIs I think) when one of the World Fairs was part of the episode. I then spent the rest of the programme googling and reading up on the the World Fair. Interesting stuff

  4. Perdita:
    That's a good site; I had forgotten that there was a World's Fair as late as the mid-Sixties.

    I know what you mean (although it can get awfully confusing talking about the future, in the past, looking to the future, in the present... erm, oh dear! ;-] ). A case of being way ahead of their time, almost unintentionally, perhaps?

  5. Amy:
    It's good to hear of these things still getting a mention in today's popular culture in some way or other!


Don't just sit there, type something! I enjoy reading all comments.


Popular Posts