2008 Zaragoza
Expo 2008 official logo
BIE-classSpecialized exposition
CategoryInternational Recognized Exhibition
NameExpo 2008
Area25 hectares (62 acres)
Coordinates41°40′8.58″N 0°54′10.27″W / 41.6690500°N 0.9028528°W / 41.6690500; -0.9028528
BiddingJune 2003
Awarded16 December 2004 (2004-12-16)
Opening14 June 2008 (2008-06-14)
Closure14 September 2008 (2008-09-14)
Specialized expositions
PreviousExpo '98 in Lisbon
NextExpo 2012 in Yeosu
Universal expositions
PreviousExpo 2005 in Aichi
NextExpo 2010 in Shanghai
Horticultural expositions
PreviousExpo 2006 in Chiang Mai
NextExpo 2012 in Venlo
General view of the Expo 2008 site
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Expo 2008 was an international exposition held from Saturday 14 June to Sunday 14 September 2008 in Zaragoza, Spain, with the theme of "Water and Sustainable Development". The exposition was placed in a meander of the river Ebro. It was coordinated by the Bureau International des Expositions, the organization responsible for sanctioning World's Fairs.[1]

Zaragoza, host city for the international exposition, is the administrative and financial capital of the autonomous community of Aragon and Spain's fifth most populous city. Zaragoza was elected the host city of Expo 2008 on 16 December 2004 by the BIE, beating Thessaloniki (Greece) and Trieste (Italy).

The exhibition's most emblematic buildings were the Water Tower, an 80-metre-high transparent building designed by Enrique de Teresa to evoke a drop of water, Zaha Hadid's Bridge Pavilion, and the river aquarium. The exposition site also hosted several events, including a daily parade by Cirque du Soleil called The Awakening of the Serpent.[1]

Aside from the countries, non-government organizations and private companies took part in Expo 2008, always with the idea of water and sustainable development. Prior to the event, the Expo 2008 host committee estimated that the exposition could generate 135 million euros in receipts for admission to the exhibition centre.

Spaces and exhibitions

Thematic pavilions

Bridge pavilion

View of Bridge Pavilion, inside.

The Bridge Pavilion[2] was one of the most emblematic buildings of Expo 2008. Designed by Zaha Hadid, it was built in two levels with the shape of a gladiolus opening and closing. It joins the neighbourhood of La Almozara and the Expo site with a central island in the river Ebro.

The Bridge Pavilion hosted the exposition Water – a unique resource, designed by Ralph Appelbaum Associates, which tried to present water as a universal human right, to inform visitors how water is a unique resource and to explain water management procedures and encourage citizen participation.

Water tower

Water Tower

The Water Tower[3] was another emblematic building of Expo 2008 and its vertical icon. Designed by Enrique de Teresa, it is 76 metres high with 10,400 accessible square metres. On the top floor, there is a 720-square-metre panoramic bar with fantastic views over Zaragoza. Inside the tower there is a 23-metre-high sculpture called Splash, which represents a splash of water, "the arrival of life on our planet". The Splash sculpture, based on dynamic simulation systems, was designed by Mona Kim, Todd Palmer, Olga Subirós and Simon Taylor from Program Collective.[4][5]

The Water Tower hosted the exposition Water for life where "audiovisual media and lighting play a key role in the way the contents are communicated".


River Aquarium

This thematic pavilion,[6] which remained in operation after the expo,[citation needed] is the biggest freshwater aquarium in Europe, with 300 species of fauna from rivers around the world in 60 tanks or terrariums. Rivers represented are:

Thematic squares


View of the Water Tower

This thematic square employed mirrors, audiovisual projections and combinations of light and sound to create optical illusions.[7] It was 46.7 metres in diameter, covering a total area of 1,640 square metres (820 of them were the exposition area).

Igloo of salt

Designed by Cloud 9 / Enric Ruiz-Geli, this plaza's architecture was that of an enigmatic building. It was an inflatable structure covered with salt that reflected the sun's rays and lit up at night as if it had stored all of the necessary energy to continue to function.

This themed plaza was designed according to Expo Zaragoza 2008's sustainability criteria: the use of PVC was avoided in electrical wiring, as well as tropical wood, synthetic varnish or solvent-based paints; taps made use of water-saving systems. Additionally, the frame was hired out to avoid having to demolish it once the expo was complete.

The use of EFTE in the building's three-layered roof made air conditioning unnecessary. One of the EFTE layers was silver-plated to refract light and prevent outside heat from penetrating the building; air in the inflatable components and a Brine system irrigating them cooled the interior. All of this created a temperate building, meaning that the climate control system only needed to work against body heat produced by visitors and heat given off by equipment used in the exhibition. This way the organisers could make use of a system that was much more sustainable and inexpensive than conventional air conditioning.

Cities of water

This square had no walls, so its contents were visible from outside.[8] The exhibit was about water as an "urban resource" and a "natural element in the process of improving quality of life in cities".

Extreme water

Channel of brave waters

This square symbolised the moment when a wave breaks on the beach.[9] It was divided into two areas: the first was the sensorial area with 120 mobile seats where audiovisuals were projected; the second was the ideas area with interactive platforms, images and texts about water and its risks.

Oikos, water and energy

This exhibit was about getting energy from water.[10]

Shared water

This thematic square[11] showed visitors how political divisions affect the management of water.

Aquatic inspirations

This square[12] hosted the show El hombre vertiente, created by the Argentine Pichón Baldinu, six times a day.

Participants pavilion

Country pavilions

Main Street at Expo 2008

More than one hundred countries, plus dozens of companies and NGOs, participated in Expo 2008. The confirmed list had these 104 countries[13] (arranged in alphabetical order):

 Algeria  Andorra  Angola  Antigua and Barbuda
 Argentina  Austria  Bahamas  Barbados
 Belgium  Belize  Bolivia  Brazil
 Bulgaria  Cameroon  Cape Verde China China
 Colombia  Costa Rica  Croatia  Cuba
 Cyprus  Denmark  East Timor  Dominica
 Dominican Republic  Ecuador  Equatorial Guinea  Egypt
 El Salvador  Ethiopia  France  Germany
 Greece  Grenada  Guatemala  Guyana
 Haiti  Honduras  Hungary  India
 Indonesia  Italy  Jamaica  Japan
 Jordan  Kazakhstan  Kenya  South Korea
 Kuwait  Libya  Lithuania  Macedonia
 Malaysia  Mali  Malta  Mauritania
 Mexico  Monaco  Mongolia  Morocco
 Mozambique  Namibia    Nepal  Netherlands
 Nicaragua  Niger  Nigeria  Oman
 Pakistan  Panama  Paraguay  Peru
 Philippines  Poland  Portugal  Qatar
 Romania  Russia  Saint Kitts and Nevis  Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
 Saint Lucia  Saudi Arabia  Senegal  Slovakia
 Solomon Islands  South Africa  Spain  Sudan
 Suriname  Sweden   Switzerland  Tanzania
 Thailand  Trinidad and Tobago  Tunisia  Turkey
 Uganda  United Arab Emirates  Uruguay  Vanuatu
 Vatican City  Venezuela  Vietnam  Yemen

The 17 autonomous communities of Spain and two autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla also participated, as did as the United Nations and the European Union.

The pavilions for official participants were divided into eight large buildings and into five differentiated eco-geographical areas within the Expo 2008 Exposition site. Those areas were:

Spain Pavilion
Aragon Pavilion

The joint pavilions corresponding to the eco-geographic areas of Grasslands, Steppes and Savannahs, Tropical Rainforests and Islands and Coasts, were built by the organisers to house the pavilions of countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), respectively. The total surface area of the participating countries pavilions was 61,667 m2.

Spain and the region of Aragon, as hosts, had their own separate pavilions. The Spain Pavilion was designed by Patxi Mangado, and the Aragon Pavilion, which resembled local basketweaving, by Daniel Olano.

Citizen's initiative pavilion

This pavilion had the shape of a beacon,[14] "a symbol of hope for the future of water in our world". It expressed the vitality of ordinary people and non-governmental organisations. The Beacon was situated by the Bridge Pavilion entrance.

Gold Prize award

The Philippines, on 19 September 2008 won the "Gold Prize", the Expo's highest award for a participating country. The award noted the quality of the Philippine pavilion's internal and external décor, consisting of 1,000 crystal-like bubble sand, as well as its functionality, which had supreme relevance to the exposition's theme of "Water and Sustainable Development". Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano said "this recognition is truly well-deserved as our country’s wealthy aquatic life has been captured by the equally rich imagination of our fellowmen. While other countries utilized ultra modern technology, we chose to highlight more community-involved practices as well as natural land irrigation, aquatic recreation and marine resources preservation". The Philippine pavilion's attractions included the meeting of the two mascots, Fluvi and Filippo, and "Filipinas Te Espera Nights", a series of marketing events.[15]


Expo 2008 had a 93-day-long show programme with more than 3,400 acts from more than 350 companies and artists.

On the expo site, there were three shows called major events. They were:


This show was intended to be the artistic part of the Opening Ceremony, although the flood of the river Ebro in the previous days forced plans to change, as the set was situated in the middle of the river. Nevertheless, the show was presented each night starting on 20 June.[16] The Spanish director Calixto Bieito and the scenographer Alfons Flores were responsible for the set design while the music was by José Luis Romeo. The show had a huge iceberg with a minute human figure designed by the Catalan company FOCUS.

El hombre vertiente

This show, created by the Argentine Pichón Baldinu, was the artistic part of the Opening Ceremony on 13 June 2008, in replacement of "Iceberg". It repeated six times throughout the day at the thematic square Water Inspirations.

The Awakening of the Serpent

This water-themed parade took place every day at the Expo site as "The Awakening of the Serpent" wandered around the site. The parade's creative director was Jean François Brouchard and its artistic director Julien Gabriel. Canada's Cirque du Soleil participated with acrobats, actors, gymnasts, singers and musicians.

Bob Dylan and additional American artists

Expo 2008 officially opened with a concert by Bob Dylan, the Official Artist of Expo 2008.

Additional American artists scheduled to perform on the evening entertainment stage included Patti Smith, Robert Cray, Keb Mo, Ruben Blades, Canadian Diana Krall, The Stray Cats, Los Lobos and Gloria Estefan. A performance by Philip Glass closed Expo 2008.


Fluvi and Ica next to El Pilar

The Expo 2008 mascot was Fluvi,[17] a little male drop of water.

With his best friend Ica, the smallest drop of water, and Nico and Laurita, he fought against the pollution made by Sec and Raspa, the evil Negas.

Qatar issued a postage stamp miniature sheet commemorating Expo Zaragoza 2008, which pictured Fluvi.

After the Expo

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The exposition site and its facilities were planned thinking of their usage as a new extension of the city when the Expo finished in September 2008. The expectation[citation needed] was that some the buildings would be rented or transferred to several institutions. The Aragon Pavilion was to be converted into the head office of a regional ministry, while the landmark buildings of the Expo, the Water Tower and the Bridge Pavilion, were expected to be purchased by local financial institutions. The Spanish Pavilion was expected to be used by the University of Zaragoza to set up a new school of architecture.

The international pavilions were to be remodelled and converted into offices so that the site would become the main business park in Zaragoza. This space was also to have recreational establishments and restaurants.

Other expectations were that a great part of the site would be used for shopping establishments and for the construction of a science park for businesses.

The Aquarium, as the largest freshwater aquarium in Europe, has continued operation till the present day.


  1. ^ a b "2008 Zaragoza". www.bie-paris.org. Retrieved 13 January 2024.
  2. ^ "Bridge Pavilion". expozaragoza2008.com. Archived from the original on 22 March 2013.
  3. ^ "Water Tower". expozaragoza2008.com. Archived from the original on 9 August 2012.
  4. ^ Escultura Splash Archived 15 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine programcollective.com
  5. ^ Splash Credits expozaragoza2008.es Archived 28 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Aquarium". expozaragoza2008.com. Archived from the original on 9 August 2012.
  7. ^ "Thirst". expozaragoza2008.com. Archived from the original on 24 July 2012.
  8. ^ "Cities of Water". expozaragoza2008.com. Archived from the original on 24 July 2012.
  9. ^ "Extreme Water". expozaragoza2008.com. Archived from the original on 24 October 2008.
  10. ^ "Oikos: water and energy". expozaragoza2008.com. Archived from the original on 2 August 2012.
  11. ^ "Shared Water". expozaragoza2008.com. Archived from the original on 29 December 2007.
  12. ^ "Aquatic Inspirations". expozaragoza2008.com. Archived from the original on 9 August 2012.
  13. ^ Expo Zaragoza 2008 :: Participants Archived 3 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ "Citizen's Initiative Pavilion". expozaragoza2008.com. Archived from the original on 9 August 2012.
  15. ^ Globalnation.inquirer: Philippines wins grand prize in Expo Zaragoza Archived 21 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "El espectáculo del Iceberg en la EXPO de Zaragoza comenzará el 20 de junio". Archived from the original on 15 June 2008. Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  17. ^ "Fluvi". expozaragoza2008.com. Archived from the original on 24 July 2012.