World's Fairs were stages where the nation-states of the late nineteenth- and early-twentieth centuries displayed their constructed identities, achievements and innovations. Location, size, and magnificence of the individual national pavilions were indicative of their relative worth vis-a-vis other participanting countries. World's Fairs were also the arenas in which socio-political transformations and geo-political ambitions displayed themselves. Therefore, analysis of the world's fairs spaces is useful to investigate the features of a history in its making.
The Exposition of Turin 1911 was organized around 26 groups, in turn divided into 127 subgroups. Thirty-eight nations participated, though not all had an individual pavilion.
Almost each participating nation has its own national building at the Turin 1911 Fair. The architectural design of national pavilions, their dimensions, location in the fairground, and connections to other structures were intended to showcase national identity and strenghten socio-political alliances, while displaying progress in science, technology, and the arts.
NATIONAL PAVILIONS AND THE DISPLAY OF ALLIANCES
France was the first nation to accept the invitation to the 1911 Turin Fair (Touring Club Italiano, 1911). Architect Stefano Molli designed the French Pavilion, which was located at the core of the fairground in a privileged location.
The Monumental Complex was one of the main attractions of the Fair. It was composed of the Monumental Bridge, the Court of Honor, and the Monumental Waterfall on the right bank of the river Po. Looking at the Monumental Waterfall, France located its national Pavilion just on the left of the Court of Honor towards the North, close to the Monumental Bridge, while at the other end of the bridge France obtained space to create the Pavilion of the City of Paris. Besides these structures, the pavilions of the French colonies and small - but architecturally superb - individual kiosks of several French companies occupied several locations in the Valentino Park. The French presence was pervasive at the Fair.
Germany initially expressed reluctance to partipate in the Fair, but ultimately joined in the celebrations, as affirmed by the German Consul in Milan, Giovanni Breiter: «di fronte ai fedeli e valenti amici nel commercio ed alleati italiani questa stanchezza si è tramutata in lieta fiducia, in fervente attività» (Touring Club Italiano, 1911, p.39). The German Pavilion was located opposite the French Pavilion, on the other side of the Court of Honor. It was part of the long line of buildings all connected together on the right bank of the river Po and designed mainly by Architect Molli with consistent unity of style.
England was defined as the «grande nazione amica» and had the largest national pavilion (20000 m2), followed by France (13990 m2) and Germany (9000 m2) (“Il Padiglione Della Francia All’Esposizione Del 1911,” 1910; Touring Club Italiano, 1911). The Pavilion of England occupied another charming spot; with a design resembling an English crescent next to the Fontana dei Dodici Mesi the pavilion was isolated from the other nations but linked to the Gallery of Machines, suggesting Great Britain's interest in showcasing industrial and technological progress.
Salvadori, Fenoglio, and Molli are reported as the designers of the Pavilions of Great Britain and Germany, but no drawings related to them have been retrieved in the Stefano Molli Archive. It is likely that the three engineers were each in charge of designing individual pavilions and, it is likely that the Pavilions of Germany and Great Britain were designed by Fenoglio or Salvadori. The French economical interest in Italy is clearly demonstrated by its massive participation in the Fair, but Italy's political alliance with France and Great Britain was not explicit at that time; Italy entered the Triple Entente with France and Great Britain only in 1915, after entering World War I as a member of the Triple Alliance with Austro-Hungary and Germany. The Turin 1911 Fair emphasized the Italian alignment with France, revealing their common interests in colonial and economic expansions.
PRESENCES AND ABSENCES AT TURIN 1911
Besides France, Great Britain, Germany, and Hungary, many other nations participated in the Fair: Belgium, the United States of America, the Republic of Argentina, Brazil, Latin America - with Bolivia, Uruguay, Cuba, Venezuela, Chile, and Perú -, Russia, Turkey, Serbia, Siam (Thailand). Several colonies were also represented, such as Libya, Ethiopia, Tunisia, Eritrea, Somalia, Algeria (De Luca, 1911). Absent were Austria and Spain. In spite of not Although absent in Turin 1911, Spain an active contributor to the World's Fairs' phenomenon at that time, having attended the 1867, 1878, and 1900 Paris and 1873 Vienna Fairs with a Spanish Pavilion (McSweeney, 2017).
ITALIAN NATIONAL IDENTITY
Italy's role in World’s Fairs has been generally overlooked by scholars preferring to focus on technologically advanced nations such as Great Britain, France, and the United States. Besides celebrating the 50th anniversary of the unification of Italy, the Turin 1911 Exposition was also the place where Italy displayed its colonial ambitions with the exhibits of Somalia, Eritrea, and the Kermesse Orientale (Della Coletta, 2006; Ricardi di Netro, 2016). At the Turin 1911 Fair, Italy presented ordered and "disciplined" colonial displays, in contrast to the exoticized native exhibits created in other fairs, in an attempt to appease widespread concerns about Italy's nascent colonial adventures (Della Coletta, 2006). In the general plan of the fairground, the Italian colonies were relegated to a peripheral space, between the Pilonetto area and Isabella Bridges. Here the irregular buildings of the Oriental Kermesse, their haphazard internal distribution, and their small size (E. F., 1911) were in contrast with the regular, massive, monumental, and elegant European and American pavilions rich in classical elements – capitols, columns, friezes.
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