From April 27 to October 29, 1967, the world came to Montreal. 50 Million visitors turned up at Expo 67 which is considered to be the most successful World’s Fair of the 20th Century. That was then, but what about now?
90 pavilions were built by Countries, Industries, and Corporations throughout Montreal, all with “Man and His World” in mind, the general theme of Expo 67. Four of these pavilions still stand today, but have been converted to some fun (and unique) attractions.
United States Pavilion/Montreal Biosphere: My favourite pavilion of Expo 67 is that mammoth geodesic dome created for the United States by Richard Buckminster Fuller. The sphere is made out of steel and acrylic cells and reaches 250 feet in diameter. The interior building is four platforms with seven levels. During the ’67 Word Fair, attendance at the pavilion reached 9 million. Today the Montreal Biosphere is a museum dedicated to the environment.
French Pavilion & Quebec Pavilion/Casino de Montreal: The Jean Faugeron designed French pavilion and the Quebec pavilion stood next to each other on Ile Notre-Dame during the fair. They have since been renovated and now house the Casino de Montreal, the largest casino in Canada and one of the largest in the world. The casino is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Habitat 67: Since its completion, Habitat ’67 has become an architectural landmark in Montreal and Canada, and declared a historic site by Quebec in 2009. It launched the career of Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie, who designed the cube-tastic complex as part of his thesis project for the architecture program at McGill. Habitat ’67 was constructed as a model housing complex, Safdie’s vision for the future of urban housing in an increasingly crowded world. The complex is made up of 354 identical pre-made cubes artistically and strategically stacked together to make 148 apartment units. Habitat is now a co-op, with prices reaching up to half a million dollars.
Expo 67 Site: The location that these beautiful pavilions call home didn’t even really exist until 1965. The only thing there was a little island called Ile-Saint-Helen. Using 25 million tons of rock and dirt excavated from underneath Montreal to build the Metro system, Ile-Saint-Helen was expanded and an entirely new one called Ile-Notre-Dame was made. All in under 10 months. Today, these twin islands form Parc Jean-Drapeau, home to the Canada Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, the Olympic Basin, La Ronde Amusement Park and the Osheaga Music Festival. One of my favourite things to do is wonder through Parc Jean-Drapeau’s open-air art gallery of sculptures, all erected for Expo 67.
La Ronde: La Ronde served as the midway for Expo 67, and today is owned and operated by Six Flags. It is the largest amusement park in Quebec, and second largest in Canada. La Ronde has “Le Galopant” which is the oldest “galloping” carousel in the world. Built in 1885 in Bressoux by Belgian craftsmen, it stayed there until 1964 when it moved to New York for their World’s Fair. For Expo 67 it came to Montreal, and has been here ever since. In 2003, the Carousel underwent a meticulous restoration, and, 127 years later, is still delighting the children of Montreal.
Montreal Biosphere, 160 Chemin Tour de l’île, Ile-Sainte-Helene, (514) 283-5000
Casino de Montreal, 1 Avenue du Casino, Ile Notre-Dame, (514) 392-2746
La Ronde, 22 Chemin Macdonald, Ile-Sainte-Helene (514) 392-2000
Habitat 67, 2600 avenue Pierre-Dupuy, (514) 866-5971
Second Chance, 1691 Rue Amherst, (514) 523-3019
Photo Credits: Bill Harrison, National Archives of Canada & Lillian Seymour