Futurism in our city
By Brittney MacDonald, Life & Style Editor
As we examine the nature of futurism within this issue, certain themes should already be very apparent. Futurism is all about exploring possibilities in technology, society, innovation, and day-to-day life. Basically, it is the concern and excitement over what tomorrow or 100 years from now may bring. This kind of fascination with coming events was already seen once before in our fair city—and it definitely left its mark in a major, and iconic way.
The 1986 World Exposition on Transportation and Communication, more commonly known as Expo 86, was a World’s Fair held in Vancouver from May 2 to October 13. It was an international event dedicated to examining the future of communication and travel throughout the world. It shared in a wealth of controversies for the time, but also remains solely responsible for Vancouver’s unique cityscape.
When you think of Vancouver and what sets our city apart from many others, often two things come to mind—the SkyTrain, and the recognizable shape of Science World at the Telus World of Science. Though there are many architectural marvels that Vancouver acquired through Expo 86, including the iconic Canada Place, these two still stand as the ones that best embodied the futurist theme.
The original SkyTrain line was built as a means of transporting everyone around the various pavilions and exhibits set up by the different participating countries. From China’s contribution of the China Gate—now located on Pender Street—to the now derelict McBarge which sits docked in Burrard Inlet and is a haven for modern urban explorers. Expo 86 held exhibitions from over 30 countries and four Canadian provinces and territories, so a fast, metropolitan transit system of the future was necessary. When Expo 86 was done, the SkyTrain stayed, and has since been expanded and updated numerous times to stay in step with Vancouver’s ever-changing needs. It now serves as an integral part of our transit system.
Science World began as the Expo Preview Centre in 1985, a hub to come and see the coming attractions of Expo 86. When the World’s Fair began, it became the Expo Centre which featured a then very innovative OMNIMAX.
Coordinators for Expo 86 wanted the Centre to be immediately recognizable for years to come. They also wanted to create an unconventional building that looked as if it was from the future. For this they relied on American inventor, Richard Buckminster Fuller, the same man responsible for the Montreal Biosphere of Expo 67. Fuller died in 1985, so he never fully saw his design actualized for its original purpose, let alone saw it reimagined as an interactive museum.
Science World is a geodesic dome: A thin-shelled building completely reliant on the weight-bearing triangles that encapsulate the round shape. As such, it is made to withstand vast amounts of pressure. In actuality, it is probably one of the most resilient buildings in our city, despite how delicate it looks. As such I believe it is one of the most archetypal examples of architectural futurism that Vancouver has to offer.
Hopefully this has shone a new light on amenities and sights that have are so familiar they have become invisible to us on our early morning commutes and treks for coffee.