The Christian Pavilion at Expo 67 was of a modern structure of wood and glass. Massive roof beams shaped like curved check marks plunged to almost ground level, then soared up beside the St. Lawrence River. A garden patio featured cedar trees, a gift from Lebanon, as well as modest concrete stools and where visitors could bathe feet in cooling fountains.
Situated on Île Notre Dame, the pavilion was symbolically placed between those of biblical countries Israel and Greece, and the United Nations pavilion. 8 churches worked to present a joint message in a spirit of cooperation.
The pavilion's theme was the Eighth Day, where man was free to create what he wanted on Earth. This Christian view of responsibility and reality was illustrated in a pavilion that had no stained glass, no religious art, no organ music.
The first section of the pavilion sought to show "the world as it is", the so-called normal aspects of life. A series of cubes featured over 300 photographs of this everyday life. One of them was mirrored to show the visitor his or her own reflection and to underline the fact that everyone is "part of the picture". Photographs of densely crowded streets papered the walls, to a soundtrack of mixed crowd noises and the occasional scream. An insistent rhythm, which was actually the sound of a human heartbeat many times amplified, seemed to swell louder and louder, intensifying the atmosphere.
A staircase led the visitor down to the second section, into the pit of human experience. A shocking series of nightmarish images was presented with themes such as drugs, alcohol, violence, disease, etc... A controversial film entitled The Eighth Day? (the theme of the pavilion with a question mark) was part of this section. The film's designer worked for months sifting through newsreel footage, to assemble this 13-minute horror story of war, atrocity, murder and desolation.
From the cramped hell, the visitor then climbed into the spacious final hall, dominated by giant photographs and a series of 5 biblical quotations. This final section sought to show that life could have relevance, meaning, hope. There were seats where the visitor could rest and consider the implications of what he or she saw in the previous sections.
Perhaps this final section was a little too low-key, as some visitors were baffled, calling the pavilion's experience everything from blasphemous to outrageously poor in taste...
images: (top) courtesy DC Hillier
(center) personal collection