USSR Pavilion at Expo 67

John Newcomb sent a note to the mention I made a while ago to Frédéric Chaubin's book on late Soviet architecture, saying ' one of the more interesting pieces of orphaned USSR architecture in North America is the USSR Pavilion at Expo 67', which indeed it is:

model of the USSR Pavilion, Expo 67, Montreal.

In the name of Man, for the good of Man. USSR Pavilion at Expo 67. photo: National Archives of Canada

Looking at all the Expo 67 pavilions on an Expo photo-collection site, the USSR pavilion has worn very, very well.  Not in place of course, it was removed at the end of Expo and rebuilt in the All-Russia Exhibition Centre, a permanent trade show site in Moscow.  

This exhibition site has a nice history of names: 1935 it was the All-Union Agricultural Exhibition.  Renovated after the war, by 1959 it was called the Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy with engineering, space, atomic energy, culture, education and radioelectronics pavilions.  It was renamed in 1992 as the All-Russia Exhibition Centre, a flat name without any of the glory and exuberance of the soviet era.  This is what globalisation does for us, it removes hubris and pride and makes everything a bit humdrum.   Not unlike Edmonton changing its historic summer exhibition, Klondike Days, to Capital-X, something that sounds as if it is a mutual fund.  However, I digress.

At the time the iconic Expo pavilion was the USA geodesic dome, designed by Fuller, with the monorail shooting through it.  There is something Sant'Elia-ish about elevated trains cutting though buildings at high levels, and the massive geodesic dome creating a controlled environment still appears in apocalyptic survival visions of earth when we've run out of air and water; neither are pleasant references. 

I know it is a kind of cheat to show buildings in construction as they are inevitably much more beautiful than when finished, but the USSR pavilion in construction is the perfect diagram of an optimistic transparency which, growing up in the lee of American paranoia, we never were able to acknowledge.

The USSR pavilion in construction. Montreal, 1966. photo: Bill Dutfield