Designing the Fair of the Future: Bacon student design competition

At the heart of this ambitious challenge are some important questions. What is the value of undertaking a massive project like a world’s fair or the Olympics? How do we design a celebration that serves its purpose and also leaves a lasting, positive impact for the host city and its inhabitants? How will the nature of these mega events change by the year 2026? How can we learn from Philadelphia’s long history hosting celebrations of America’s birthday and from international examples of planning for world’s fairs and the Olympics?

In 1959, Edmund Bacon, Philadelphia’s former planning director wrote an article for Greater Philadelphia Magazine laying out a vision for a celebration in 1976, focusing on the long-term impacts of that celebration. He wrote, “the 1976 [Bicentennial and] World’s Fair can become the force that will sustain the present civic effort to the year 1976, and to give the impetus to keep it going for the full half century.” However, as Bacon himself experienced in the years that would follow this proclamation, the planning for the 1976 would be controversial, divisive, and ultimately a ghost of the grand vision for a major national celebration focused on Philadelphia.


The 5th Annual Ed Bacon Student Design Competition asks entrants to develop innovative designs for an international exposition in celebration of America’s 250th anniversary to be held in Philadelphia in 2026. Entrants should examine the questions of what an international expo looks like in the 21st century, how large-scale celebrations can be long-term beneficial for their host city, and what role this type of event plays in sustainable urban development.


The competition is open internationally to students of any discipline at the college or university level. Competition entries may be the work of an individual or team and there is no limit to the number of entrants per team. However all participants must be registered students of a college or university during the course of the competition. All information and materials needed to participate in the competition are contained in the online program document and drawing files. There is no entry or submission fee required to participate, though students must register their intent to submit by September 30, 2010.

Submission Dates
Thursday, September 30, 2010 — Deadline for Pre-Registration
Tuesday, November 2, 2010 — Deadline for receipt of competition submissions. Entries must be received by (not postmarked) by this date. (Download submission form [pdf])

Entries must be mailed to:

      Designing the Fair of the Future
      c/o The Center for Architecture
      1218 Arch Street
      Philadelphia, PA 19107

For full details please visit the competition website

Ed Bacon Foundation

Center for Architecture

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