Archive for January 5, 2012

Basil Spence’s Expo 67 Pavillion, Montreal

January 5, 2012 1 comment

The 1967 Expo in Montreal, Canada is generally accepted to have been the most successful Expo of the Twentieth Century and must have been an amazing experience.

After the success of the New York Expo of 1964, the event was supposed to have been held in Russia to mark the 50th anniversary of the Revolution, but for reasons both political and financial, this was not to be and Montreal was awarded the prize in 1962.

Spread out over the newly created Isle Notre Dame and the significantly enlarged Isle St Helene, in the St Lawrence River, were 90 cutting edge pavilions representing if not all, then certainly a large number of the nations of the world. So not only could you have visited a proper Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome (USA Pavillion) and a genuine Frei Otto tensile steel structure (West German Pavillion), there was also Moshe Safdie’s iconic Habitat 67 Housing scheme, which attempted to redefine affordable urban living through its use of prefabricated concrete units arranged to provide both internal and external spacial variety and suggest a more suburban living in the heart of the city.

But it’s Basil Spence’s wonderful pavilion for Great Britain that has prompted me to write this post. I came across a selection of amazing images at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Monuments in Scotland (RCAHMS), who are the trustees of the Sir Basil Spence archives and just had to put them up on my blog…

They appear to depict a huge, pure white monster of a building, with a Pop Art Union Jack at the top of a tower. I particularly like the fountain by Steven Sykes (probably because it reminds me of the work of Bill Mitchell) and the black and white interior shots, with their tellingly organic 1960’s corners…

All this Expo business reminds me that when A and I were in China at the end of our world tour, we missed the opening of the 2009 Shanghai Expo by about 2 weeks.. We went to visit the huge site hoping they might take pity on us, but it was well guarded by fences and soldiers and we left pretty quickly. So an annoying bit of organising on our part, as I would dearly have loved to have seen Thomas Heatherwick’s Seed Cathedral…


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