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Geodesic domed pavilion was the star of the US presence at Expo 67

Valeria Carullo

Monica Pidgeon photographed the United States of America Pavilion, shown at Canada’s Expo 67 on the Ile Sainte Hélène, Montreal

United States of America Pavilion,  IÎe Sainte-Hélène, Montréal, Expo ’67.
United States of America Pavilion, IÎe Sainte-Hélène, Montréal, Expo ’67. Credit: Monica Pidgeon / RIBA Collections

The US Pavilion was one of the most popular of Expo ’67, enjoyed by over 9 million visitors. The six-level interior, designed by Cambridge Seven Associates, responded to the theme of ‘Creative America’ and displayed a wide range of artefacts, from NASA’s Apollo Lunar Excursion Module to items of popular culture such as Elvis Presley’s guitar. What made the pavilion highly memorable was its exterior, a geodesic dome designed by Buckminster Fuller. This transparent, free-standing structure was a three-quarter sphere of cylindrical steel tubes covered by an acrylic skin which reflected the sun during the day and glowed from the interior at night. While many of the pavilions of Expo ’67 were subsequently dismantled, the US Pavilion was donated to the City of Montréal and used for exhibitions and other cultural activities until 1976, when the acrylic skin was destroyed by a fire. In the 1990s the pavilion was converted into a museum – the Biosphere – promoting the environment and its protection; during the renovation project only the original tubular structure was retained. 

An exhibition of Monica Pidgeon’s photographs is now open at the Royal Institute of British Architects