In an Expo where pavilions use iconic forms to represent their countries—Israel’s shell, Romania’s apple, Switzerland’s ski lift—it makes some sense that the United States Pavilion takes the form of a shopping mall. Or is it a car dealership? Officially the building—designed not by an American but by Canadian architect Clive Grout—is meant to represent an eagle, but visitors can see this only on the Expo map, and only if they have an active imagination.
Most countries use their pavilions to show themselves at their best. Cambodia reproduces Angkor Wat, Belgium displays diamonds, and Iran presents its drug-discovery program. The United States Pavilion shows America to be little more than a center for big business. An epic story of official hesitation and false starts led to this compromised design, the only national pavilion at the Expo funded solely by corporations. If not for corporate America, the United States would not have a pavilion at the Expo. And those corporations let visitors know all about the big role they played—from the exterior video screen that runs advertisements, to the entrance wall covered in logos, to a film featuring corporate talking heads, to corporate-sponsored exhibitions—the only exhibitions in the building.