Space Age Japan Expo 1970

Amazing space age flying saucer shaped architecture. The organge structure was made by Hitachi to present the products of the future at Japan Expo 1970. The geodesic dome is the MIDORI-KAN Astrorama,a multi-dimensional world.

MIDORI-KAN Astrorama

Sound played a big role at EXPO 70. Back at EXPO 58 (Brussels) the Philips Pavilion (designed by le Corbusier) featured a "poemeelectronique" with "music" (actually a collage of many different sounds) composed by Edgard Varese. The recorded sound was directed through 425 loudspeakers according to a program that ensured that each performance was spatially different. At EXPO 70 the German Pavilion featured an auditorium housed within a 30m diameter geodesic sphere designed as an "electrical space-sound studio" incorporating various experimental techniques for "future concepts" of opera theaters and concert halls. The facilities included 500 loudspeakers and complex sound mixing and routing equipment.

As 1970 represented the 200th anniversary of Beethoven's birth, the space was used for live concerts and recorded music of both classical and modern composers. The most notable of the latter was Karl Heinz Stockhausen who personally conducted performances of his electronic compositions every day for several months of the EXPO. He used what he called a "sound mill" (rather like a hand coffee-grinder) where turning the handle directed sounds to different parts of the sphere.

Most pavilions wanted to ensure that as many visitors as possible could move through their exhibitions. This meant that if any kind of "show" was to be given, there had to be sufficient space for the audience; so, for example, if the target was 1,800 visitors per hour, a two minute show would need space for at least 60 viewers. The UK pavilion, which, like its predecessor at EXPO 67, made good use of audio-visual displays integrated into exhibition settings, was one of many to exploit the relatively new technique of multi-image projection using multiple electronically controlled slide projectors. The pavilion included a 16 screen (32 projector) display devoted to the arts, and featuring leading British artists, sculptors, architects and actors of the day; but to meet the visitor flow requirement it was only a few minutes long.

Many of the foreign exhibitors used multi-image slide technique. It was particularly suitable for relatively small pavilions like that of Ireland, which had a most engaging show based on excellent photography of the country. The Scandinavian Pavilion had a show using over 60 projectors, but unfortunately their clever ideas did not really work with the Japanese Public. Visitors were given a "fan" (in fact a white card) and if they held it correctly they could read projected captions on it that described the images on the overhead screens.

This approach could have worked well in an exhibition with few highly motivated visitors; but the Japanese visitors, mostly in organized groups with a flag-bearing leader setting the pace, simply did not have the time to work out what they were supposed to do.

EXPO 70 was really notable for the presence of the big Japanese corporate pavilions. Many of these worked on a "timed show" basis. While this allowed proper shows of some length to be given, it did limit the throughput of individual pavilions. Many of the pavilions were obviously inspired by the success of the multi-screen films that had been seen at EXPO 67, and were determined to go one better, with varying degrees of success.

Typical was the combined Toshiba and IHI Pavilion. Here 500 visitors at a time were loaded onto a circular platform that then rose 5.5m up into a 26m diameter theater space. An 18 minute film show was presented on nine screens, each 9m wide at base and 7.5m wide at the top. During the show, entitled "Light for Man", the audience platform rotated.

The Gas Pavilion had a multi-screen film show "symphony of laughter" shown on four screens to audiences of 380 at a time. The arrangement of a long narrow screen on the floor, two tall vertical screens and a conventional front screen was reminiscent of the "Labyrinth" pavilion seen three years before at EXPO 67. The Automobile Pavilion had a 35 minute four screen show called "240 hours a day", a humorous science fiction film presented on three screens side by side and a portrait format screen in the ceiling.

In 1969 Sony had developed the U-Matic range of videocassette based professional video recorders. Although tape is not ideal for exhibition presentation, and would have been very expensive at the time, it is clear that color video presentation was used at EXPO 70, for example the Telecommunications Pavilion is described as having 200 color TVs showing pictures of babies. It is not clear how many separate video sources were used, but it is at least probable that a number of early U-Matic machines were used (otherwise studio TV recorders or telecine machines would have been necessary; the alternative of lots of live babies on camera seems unlikely!).

The Telecommunications Pavilion demonstrated Japanese expertise in long distance communication by having "video telephones" demonstrated on giant TV screens. Live hook-ups to Tokyo, Kyoto and Japan's southernmost point, Tanegashima Island, were shown on giant projection screens -- a 13m*9m black and white image and two 6m*4m color images, all using the Swiss Eidophor projection system.

EXPO 70 was a true space age architectural dream world with many rewarding exhibits to see if you had the stamina. Each country had its own fashion dress code.