Biosphère (Montréal)

( Montreal Biosphere )

The Biosphere, also known as the Montreal Biosphere, is a museum dedicated to the environment in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It is housed in the former United States pavilion constructed for Expo 67 located within the grounds of Parc Jean-Drapeau on Saint Helen's Island. The museum's geodesic dome was designed by Buckminster Fuller.

Expo 67

The structure was originally built as the United States pavilion at Expo 67. The United States Information Agency, which was responsible for the U.S. presence at the exposition, revealed its plans for the pavilion in June 1965.[1] The geodesic dome exterior was designed by R. Buckminster Fuller with Shoji Sadao and Geometrics Inc.,[2] while the interior structures and exhibits were designed by Cambridge Seven Associates.[1] The construction project, led by the George A. Fuller Company, began in December 1965.[3]

The Expo opened on 27 April 1967 and ran until 29 October 1967.[4][5] Upon entering the pavilion, visitors ascended a 135-foot (41 m) escalator, reported to be the longest unsupported escalator in the world, to reach the exhibit platforms.[6][7] The two uppermost platforms held "Destination: Moon", an exhibit on NASA's space programs; spacecraft were hung from the dome's steel frame, including the Freedom 7, Gemini 7, and Apollo AS-202 capsules.[8][9][10] On the mezzanine level, the "American Spirit" exhibit displayed a wide variety of artifacts, including American Indian crafts, folk art objects, guitars owned by famous musicians, a collection of dolls, and an array of almost 300 hats, representing a range of regions and occupations.[11][12][13] Other attractions included a gallery of Hollywood memorabilia and "American Painting Now", an exhibit of 22 large-scale works by contemporary American artists.[14][7] A 300-seat theater screened A Time to Play, a multi-screen film by Art Kane showing American schoolchildren playing various playground games.[15][16]

Man and His World (1968–1976)

After the Expo, the site continued to operate as Man and His World, an ongoing exhibition held every summer. Like most countries at the Expo, the United States donated its pavilion structure to the City of Montreal for use in the exhibition.[17][18] The pavilion was renamed to Biosphere and opened in 1968 as an aviary and arboretum, featuring four suspended gardens and hundreds of birds.[18][19]

For the 1971 season, the United States returned to use Biosphere as its national pavilion, with a display titled "Visit USA", sponsored by the United States Travel Service and the Smithsonian Institution.[20][21] The pavilion reverted to its nature theme in 1972, with the addition of a troop of baboons, a Japanese garden, and a children's adventure area, Sleeping Beauty's Fantasy Land.[22][23]

In 1973, Biosphere was converted to an anti-pollution exhibit titled "Man and His Environment", sponsored by Hydro-Québec.[24][25]

 The Biosphere in flames on 20 May 19761976 fire

On 20 May 1976, Biosphere was severely damaged in a fire. Sparked by a welding crew during structural renovations, the fire burned away the building's transparent acrylic bubble, but the hard steel truss structure remained.[26]

After the fire, the city was determined to maintain the Biosphere and continue using it as an open-air structure, possibly containing suspended gardens or a concert venue.[27] Plans were announced in 1977 to transform it into a recreational area named Man at Play, but they did not come to fruition.[28] By 1980, the building's future was still unclear, as the city was cleaning it up in hopes of finding a partner to redevelop it.[29]

Ultimately, the building remained closed and unused until 1990.[30][31]

Rebirth as museum  Biosphere at sunset

In August 1990, Environment Canada committed $17.5 million to turn Biosphere into an interactive museum showcasing and exploring the water ecosystems of the Great Lakes-Saint Lawrence River regions.[31] The museum opened on 6 June 1995.[32][33] It inhabits a set of enclosed buildings designed by Éric Gauthier, inside the original steel skeleton.

The Biosphere changed its name in 2007 to become an environment museum. It offers interactive activities and presents exhibitions about the major environmental issues related to water, climate change, air, ecotechnologies, and sustainable development.

The museum shows support for multiple causes by lighting up in different colors on special occasions. In April 2020, it lit up in multiple colors to show support during the COVID-19 pandemic.[34] In June 2022, the museum lit up in green in support of World Environment Day.[35]

In 2021, control of the Biosphere was transferred from Environment Canada to Space for Life, the City of Montreal's complex of nature museums.[36][37]

^ a b "U.S.'s Canada fair exhibit plans outlined". Minneapolis Tribune. 27 June 1965 – via Newspapers.com. ^ Rebecca Dalvesco (October 2017). "R. Buckminster Fuller, the Expo '67 Pavilion and the Atoms for Peace Program". Leonardo. 50 (5): 486. JSTOR 26808487. ^ "Groundwork gets started on U.S. Expo pavilion". The Montreal Star. 20 December 1965 – via Newspapers.com. ^ John Mahoney (28 April 1967). "Oh, wowee! C'est magnifique! It's turned on! It's Expo!". Rutland Daily Herald – via Newspapers.com. ^ Douglas S. Crocket (30 October 1967). "Montreal's mayor plans to keep Expo". The Boston Globe – via Newspapers.com. ^ ""Building going up" is common cry now at Canada's Exposition 1967". Transcript-Telegram. Holyoke, MA. New York Times News Service. 16 November 1966 – via Newspapers.com. ^ a b "Escalator snarls U.S. pavilion tour". The Montreal Star. 28 April 1967 – via Newspapers.com. ^ "10 years after the first step into space, it's all on display by U.S. and Soviet". The Gazette. Montreal. 28 April 1967 – via Newspapers.com. ^ Frances Spatz Leighton (23 April 1967). "7 men in a bubble". The Des Moines Register – via Newspapers.com. ^ John Uri (25 August 2021). "55 Years Ago: Apollo AS-202, Final Test Flight Before Planned First Crew Mission". NASA. Retrieved 2023-07-30. ^ "The American Spirit" (PDF) (Press release). Office of the United States Commissioner General, Canadian World Exhibition, Montreal, 1967. Retrieved 2023-08-26. ^ Douglas S. Crocket (24 April 1967). "U.S. Expo '67 exhibit draws laughs". The Boston Globe – via Newspapers.com. ^ Sylvie Reice (12 June 1967). "Cheers for our pavilion!". Transcript-Telegram. Holyoke, MA. Hall Syndicate – via Newspapers.com. ^ Robert Mayer (28 April 1967). "U.S. pavilion: striking outside, but a 'sterile disaster' inside". The Buffalo News – via Newspapers.com. ^ Brian Real (2022). "Designing Diplomacy: Jack Masey and Multiscreen Cinema at Expo 67". Journal of E-Media Studies. 6 (1). Retrieved 2023-07-30. ^ "U.S. movie is hit of Expo '67". Janesville Daily Gazette. Janesville, WI. 26 July 1967 – via Newspapers.com. ^ Dave MacDonald (21 July 1967). "Expo site future still anyone's guess". Star-Phoenix. Saskatoon – via Newspapers.com. ^ a b "Expo 67 now 'Man and His World'". Detroit American. 5 May 1968 – via Newspapers.com. ^ Cynthia Gunn (17 May 1968). "Biosphere guaranteed to be "show-stopper"". The Montreal Star – via Newspapers.com. (Part 2 of article) ^ Hubert Bauch (14 April 1971). "Fun, folklore for fair". The Gazette. Montreal – via Newspapers.com. ^ Al Borcover (18 July 1971). "Where it's at in Scandinavia". Chicago Tribune – via Newspapers.com. ^ "M&HW's Biosphere to return to nature theme this year". The Gazette. Montreal. 3 August 1972 – via Newspapers.com. ^ "Children's adventure land featured at Biosphere". The Montreal Star. 3 August 1972 – via Newspapers.com. ^ Brian Moore (20 June 1973). "$700,000 ecology exhibit unveiled". The Montreal Star – via Newspapers.com. ^ "What's On". The Montreal Star. 24 August 1973 – via Newspapers.com. ^ Bolton, KC (2009-01-31). "Photo du jour - Biosphere Burning". Spacing Montreal. Retrieved 2009-01-31. ^ "No ruling on future of burned Biosphere". The Montreal Star. 28 August 1976 – via Newspapers.com. ^ "Expo dome to become Man at Play". Calgary Herald. 3 September 1977 – via Newspapers.com. ^ "City to clean up charred Biosphere". The Gazette. Montreal. 28 May 1980 – via Newspapers.com. ^ A View On Cities (2007). "Biosphere, Montreal". Montréal Attractions. Retrieved 2007-06-07. ^ a b Environment Canada (2006-01-24). "A Short History of the Biosphère". The Sphere. Archived from the original on 2007-01-23. Retrieved 2007-06-07. ^ Henry Lehmann (4 June 1995). "Biosphere's back". The Gazette. Montreal – via Newspapers.com. (Part 2 of article) ^ Peggy Curran (7 June 1995). "The Toopes are remembered as far away as Newfoundland". The Gazette. Montreal – via Newspapers.com. ^ Rowe, Daniel J. (2020-04-05). "Biosphere will follow the rainbow and shine multi-colour display". Montreal. Retrieved 2022-06-09. ^ Carpenter, Lorraine (2022-06-05). "Montreal marks World Environment Day". Cult MTL. Retrieved 2022-06-09. ^ "Governments of Canada and Quebec and City of Montréal commit to the Biosphere's future" (Press release). Ministry of the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change. 12 April 2021. Retrieved 2023-07-03. ^ "Montréal Biosphère has officially reopened". The Suburban. 15 August 2021. Retrieved 2023-07-03.
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