The Montreal Biosphere – Visionary Architecture by Richard Buckminster Fuller

Posted by in Montreal, Urbanism

The Montreal Biosphere is Canada’s first water museum dedicated to the the Great Lakes – St. Laurence ecosystem. The Biosphere was designed and created by visionary architect Richard Buckminster Fuller as the US pavilion at the Montreal  Expo ’67. Buckminster, a self taught architect, engineer and inventor was at the forefront of the sustainability movement long before it became the buzzword of the 21st Century. In the 1920’s Buckminster began his career by advocating functionalist architectural approach, purity of form and economy of means. His holistic and cosmic understanding of the world and life and his unmistakable deep understanding of our place in the universe led Buckminster to dedicate his life to making the best use of technology while improving humanity.

The Biosphere was the synthesis of his philosophy and art: through the geodesic design, built from triangles – the perfect form for Buckminster – he demonstrated that it was possible to create a livable space using only one fifth of the materials normally used in conventional architecture.  The Biosphere became The attraction at the Expo ’67 and was visited by 5.3 million people. It was donated to the City of Montreal in 1968. During repairs in May 1976 the outer acrylic shell was destroyed in a spectacular fire that lasted just half an hour, although the structure remained intact. The shell was never replaced and the City of Montreal banned access to it for fifteen years. In 1992 the structure was reborn by the the Parc des Îles (now renamed Parc Jean Drapeau) management plan, which was structured around the dominant feature, water. Environment Canada and the City of Montreal signed an agreement of $17.5 million to convert the Biosphere into an eco-action site dedicated to the study water and the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence River ecosystem. Montreal architect Éric Gauthier won the architectural competition for the Biosphere’s interior renovation.

The new eco-action center was officially opened on June 5, 1995. Since then the Biosphere annual themes have included a variety of environmental themes such as Climate Warning! in 2000 and H2O Variations. In 1998 the Biosphere entered a  strategic alliance with the Cousteau team, a first in North America, for joint projects aimed at increasing the public awareness of water protection. This December the Biosphere is celebrating a Green Christmas through various activities including a Eco Fair showcasing more than 50 eco-artists. Admission is free.

Richard Buckminster Fuller works