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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Kookie Thoughts: Imagining the United States Pavilion at Expo 67 (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bubble)

  • Author(s): Sheinin, Daniela
  • et al.

In 1967, at the International and Universal Exposition (Expo 67 in Montreal), American government planners and their collaborators in the private sector revolutionized how the United States participated at world's fairs. They transformed the ways in which architecture, design, and exhibits could come together in a stunning visual endpoint. The choice of 1960s social visionary and design guru F. Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome (“Bucky’s Bubble”) for the US Pavilion structure proved a coup, as did the Marshall McLuhan-inspired Cambridge Seven design team that created the Pavilion interior of platforms joined by criss-crossing bridges and escalators. This article incorporates an analysis of four linked elements of the US Expo 67 design project. First, it conceives of the US Pavilion at the edge of US empire. Second, it suggests that, improbably, planners found success in the mix of earlier world’s fair grand designs with a new minimalist modernity. Third, Pavilion design and content reflected the influence of Andy Warhol and other artists whose work was transforming gay camp into mass camp in American popular culture. Finally, the project drew on a secret World War II US army collaboration between three key Expo 67 planners, whose wartime specialty had been in military deception, to complete the visual revolution at the US Pavilion.

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