Monday, August 15, 2011

Toronto's "Mini-Me" Expo 67

Toronto's "Mini-Me" Expo 67

Toronto's "Mini-Me" Expo 67
Aerial views of Ontario Place (top), Expo 67 (bottom).

In the early 1970's, the city of Toronto was having a little Expo-envy. Initiated by the Government of Ontario, Ontario Place was Toronto's answer to Montreal’s Expo 67.

Like Expo, Ontario Place was built on man-made islands along the city's waterfront. Officially opened on May 22, 1971, the park encompassed 96 acres of which 51 acres were land fill.

Toronto's "Mini-Me" Expo 67

Toronto's "Mini-Me" Expo 67
Ontario Place's pods (top) and Expo's Quebec pavilion (bottom) floated on water.

The original Ontario Place consisted of 5 glass-and-steel pavilion pods elevated above the water, each pod being suspended from tension cables anchored to a central column. Glass staircases and walkways connected the pods, islands and shore. The overall transparency of these structures created a feeling of floating in open space between water and sky. [To me, squarish structures floating above water call to mind the Quebec pavilion, while open spaces, tension cables and transparent membranes recall the German pavilion...]

Ontario Place’s five pods were offset by 2 focal points: the Forum, an open-air concert bowl [Autostade, anyone?], and the Cinesphere, the world's first permanent IMAX theatre, housed in a geodesic dome. [Comparisons to the U.S. pavilion are obvious, while the origins of IMAX can also be traced back to Expo 67...]

Boutiques and restaurants dotted the Pod/Cinesphere complex, including a fine dining restaurant called The Trillium.

Toronto's "Mini-Me" Expo 67

Toronto's "Mini-Me" Expo 67
Toronto's Cinesphere (top), Montreal's Biosphere, 1974 (bottom).

Ontario Place was originally rather sparse, awaiting future development. Early brochures presented Ontario Place as a "work in progress" that would be ever-changing. [Expo 67's follow up permanent exhibition "Man and His World" was also supposed to be an ever-changing "work in progress"...]

All this free space meant that like Expo 67, Ontario Place visitors could take refuge in large, park-like rest areas. And like Expo, graphics and pictograms in brilliant primary and secondary colors guided visitors throughout the site.

Toronto's "Mini-Me" Expo 67

Toronto's "Mini-Me" Expo 67
Fireworks booming above Ontario Place (top) and La Ronde (bottom).

In the early years, Ontario Place was a success: during its short May-through-September season, the park drew some 2.5 million visitors annually... establishing it as the fifth-most popular theme park in the world.

In 1972, The Children’s Village was unveiled, featuring an interactive play environment for kids. It quickly became Ontario Place's top attraction, and a water play area opened in 1973; featuring water cannons, spray bridges and pedal-powered deluge fountains. [La Ronde had its own Children's Village, while interactive games and water play were key features of the Vienna Kindergarten...]

The Girls of Ontario Place

Toronto's "Mini-Me" Expo 67
Ontario Place guides (left) Man and His World, 1968 hostesses (right).

Like Expo 67, Ontario Place's pretty hostesses drew a lot of attention:

Toronto Week magazine claimed: "There’s a lot to see at Ontario Place, and some of the easiest things on the eye are the attractive guides.”

The Globe and Mail did a photo spread of the girls, writing: “The 100 girls who are the hostesses at Ontario Place for the summer… have hot pants and pantsuits, a midi, a jacket and a stretchy yellow-and-white bubble blouse. Most popular are the hot pants. One girl commented ‘I’ve just got to shorten them.’”...

The Ontario Place theme song (above) was written by Dolores Claman, of Hockey Night in Canada fame. [Doesn't it sound just like A Place to Stand?]

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(4) archives de montréal
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