British Journal of Canadian Studies

The British Pavilion at Expo '67: Art, Architecture and National Identity

British Journal of Canadian Studies (2007), 20, (2), 249–274.

Abstract

The British architect Sir Basil Spence designed the British pavilion at Expo '67 in a style which controversially combined elements of national identity with the innovative use of steel-framing and asbestos sheeting. The design departed from orthodoxy and was seen by reviewers more as sculpture than architecture. In realising the design Spence worked with a firm of architects based in Montreal and associated with McGill University, where they were also members of the architecture faculty. The first part of the article explores the ideological basis for the Spence design, its cultural and artistic references, the collaboration with artists, and finally the mechanisms (including construction) employed to bring the design to fruition. The second part investigates the responses to the British pavilion comparing the opinions expressed in Canada to those in the UK, and contrasting popular reaction to comments in the architectural press. Finally, the article reflects upon Expo as a place of design experimentation and the role the Spence pavilion played in this. The paper speculates that one of the first expressions of postmodernism in architecture is to be found at Expo '67.

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Details

Author details

Edwards, Brian

Fahy, Susan