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Expo 67–2017: “The Forgotten Chapter”

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From utopia to near oblivion,1 from the romance of the future to the romance of ruins. Here is the lost chapter in the life of a unique architectural landmark, The Fuller Geodesic Dome built in Montreal for Expo 67, also known as the Biosphere.

Fifty years ago the theme for Expo 67 was “Man and his World” and the former American pavilion built by Fuller and Sadao Architects became the emblematic icon of the 1967 World’s Fair. From 1976 to 1995 the site of the Biosphere was closed to the public because a fire had burned away its transparent acrylic skin. For nearly two decades Fuller’s largest and most famous dome became a derelict structure.

In 1982 I enter the picture and begin to document the slow death of this unique architectural landmark, very much in danger of slipping away from us at that time. On a weekly basis I would enter the site illegally, actually jumping the security fence, to take photographs and document the corrosive effects of time and vandalism.

“The Forgotten Chapter” is my other portfolio of photographs produced during those lost decades, where I stepped back from the pure documentary approach and directed my energy towards creating a silent narrative populated by various heroes and anti-heroes. Of course the Fuller dome remains the dark star in this series, it is constantly in the foreground and background as the strange and unique site specific spaces within are explored by various characters and models. The idea then, as with my other documentary photographs, was to rekindle interest in this unique structure, to reveal the actual state of being and ultimately encourage its conservation and eventual renovation. Thankfully the Biosphere was renovated and reopened in 1995 and is now a museum dedicated to the environment.

And so here is for the first time my photo essay, titled “The Forgotten Chapter,” or, as I sometimes like to say, “Man and his Other World.” Here is a decades-long episode in the life of Expo 67’s brightest star, the Fuller Geodesic Dome in Montreal when it was at its most vulnerable and possibly at its most beautiful.

Robert Duchesnay

1. “Utopia or Oblivion: The Prospects for Humanity,” is an essay written by Buckminster Fuller, published in 1969.

Expo 67–2017 Photographic Essay