Saturday, July 8, 2006

Expo Architecture: Theme Pavilions

During the planning stages of Expo 67, most of the pavilions were designed before the actual content of these pavilions was decided.

The architects of the Man the Explorer and Man the Producer theme pavilions were faced with a problem: how to quickly and inexpensively put up large buildings, with polyvalent spaces adaptable to either small exhibits or enormous displays?

A model of the Man the Explorer pavilion.

The architects decided to use the truncated tetrahedron shape as a sort of building block, to obtain the spaces needed for exhibits that didn't exist yet. The truncated tetrahedron is like a triangle with the corners cut off. Thousands of steel units in this shape would be stacked and joined together, creating the massive trelliswork required for these pavilions.

The original theme pavilion designs were elegant.

The initial idea was a good one, the designs and models of these buildings were elegant. Then, another problem arose: there weren't enough steel welders in Canada to weld the units together! Instead, they were bolted, which required heavy bracing to be solid. The result was an oppressive metal structure, which quickly rusted.

The end result was rather oppressive.

The Man the Explorer complex, with the U.S. pavilion in the background.

I have a love/hate relationship with these pavilions. I do find them rather ugly, but totally cool at the same time...

An aerial view of the Man the Producer complex on Île Notre Dame.

photos: (1)
(2) courtesy DC Hillier
(4) unknown source
(5) personal collection
(6) library and archives Canada

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