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Chicago Missed the Boat on a Floating World's Fair

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Hitching a ride on those summer water taxis may be a quirky way to transport your out-of-town-relatives to Michigan Avenue shopping now, but if big-name architects Bertrand Goldberg and Harry Weese had prevailed back in 1984, their Floating World's Fair proposal would have had the riverfront novelty title in the bag.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill had pitched a lakefront plan for the potential 1992 Chicago World's Fair, but Goldberg and Weese saw fairgoers flocking to exhibit spaces in or along the Chicago River from Chinatown on the south to Goose Island on the north with extensions into the lake on the east.

The plan itself called for features like a dolphin pool by the lake and more water taxis to transport visitors along the river, and it's still thought to be a clever example of using temporary facilities for economic growth in the city. Unfortunately for the architects, the 1992 World's Fair – intended to be a joint celebration between the U.S. and Spain to honor the 500th anniversary of Columbus' voyage to the Americas – never came to pass. Administrative disagreements between the city and state governments and controversy over some of the proposed elements of the fair dried up the waterlogged plans all together.
·Floating World's Fair [Bertrand]
·Bertrand Goldberg Coverage [Curbed Chicago]
·Curbed's Could Have Been [Curbed Chicago]

—Gwendolyn Purdom