It looks like it's back to square one--or worse--for a U.S. Pavilion at the upcoming world's fair in Shanghai in 2010. One of the few groups who responded to a U.S. State Department request for proposals last year--a group with strong Northwest ties--was officially notified in December that its plan did not make the cut. In fact, there were no surviving bidders. The Shanghai expo promises to be the largest world's fair in history. One hundred and sixty countries have signed up to participate. The U.S. expressed its intention to be there but is not on the list of countries that have committed in writing. The government says participation is contingent on finding private funding. The theme is "Better Cities, Better life," appropriate as Shanghai seems to embody all aspects of rapid urbanization's promises and pitfalls. The disappointed expo bidder is the BH&L Group of Marina Del Ray, California. The group is comprised of experienced expo organizers and has an advisory board with many local connections. Local advisors include China expert Sidney Rittenberg, high-tech consultant Mark Anderson, and futurist Glen Hiemstra. The group's spokesman, Bob Jacobson, was a co-founder of the Human Interface Technology (HIT) lab at the University of Washington.A previous story on the group can be found here. The State department expressed concerns about the pavilion's funding. A State Department spokesman said the U.S. "remains committed to try and identify private sector funding" for a Shanghai pavilion but would not detail how that effort is going forward. It found none of the proposals it received to be "viable." Unfortunately, a year has been lost in the process and deadlines grow tight. Many countries are well along with their pavilion designs. Bob Jacobson says BH&L is retooling its concept. One idea is to create an independent, multi-national pavilion in Shanghai devoted to "Global Solutions" that could be a "beacon" for smaller, local organizations that are working on global problems concerning climate change and the future of urban development. The United States--which did much to popularize the expo concept in the 19th and 20th centuries with major fairs in cities ranging from New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Chicago to Seattle, San Francisco and Spokane--is fading from the expo scene even as they have become more popular and more widespread internationally. The last expo held in the U.S. was in New Orleans in 1984. The U.S. has also withdrawn from membership in the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE), the Paris-based international governing body for fairs. A U.S. law passed in the 1990s forbids the government from spending federal funds on expo pavilions. Nevertheless, privately funded pavilions can be built. However, they require official U.S. government sanction. This puts prospective expo pavilion organizers in a bind: they cannot get government approval without money, and it is difficult to get money without government approval. The U.S. will not be one of the more than 100 countries participating at this year's Expo '08 in Zaragoza, Spain. The U.S. had a popular pavilion in Aichi, Japan in 2005 largely funded by Toyota. In 2000, the U.S. had no pavilion in Hanover, Germany.