1967 was an exciting time to be a Montrealer. The city’s reign as Canada’s artistic cradle began not too long prior when Mayor Jean Drapeau spearheaded visionary initiatives to propel the metropolis into cultural stardom. Expo 67 was the standout—anticipating a turnout of millions, Drapeau let eclectic architecture modernize the humdrum cityscape into a spectacular jungle of unique structures. The most memorable? The United States Pavilion (now the Biosphere), a 250-foot diameter geodesic dome by Buckminster Fuller.
The once-sensational dome, sheathed in a geometric tessellation of steel and acrylic cells, currently sits in solitude on Île Sainte-Hélène. A devastating fire in 1976 left the landmark vacant until being commissioned as an environmental museum in 1990. In honor of the World Exhibition’s 50th anniversary, Studio Dror founder Dror Benshetrit revealed an inspired concept that reimagines how Montreal can leverage the desolate space—including the surrounding vastness of Parc Jean Drapeau—to the city’s advantage and reinvigorate seasonal public space.
“We propose a second, enlarged dome for the western tip of the island that ushers Montreal into the future,” remarks Benshetrit, who cites Fuller as a lasting influence on his own work. “Poetically engaging Bucky’s existing structure in a visual dance, interacting much like the sun and the moon, the Biosphere is no longer alone; it has a partner.” The 104-meter-wide interior tubular aluminum dome would provide a contemporary backdrop for year-round events such as festivals, concerts, installations, and farmers markets. A secondary 150-meter-wide layer composed of aluminum cables populated with vegetation would set the mood inside for calm contemplation and repose.
Studio Dror developed the concept following a tour of the island with the Buckminster Fuller Institute where both parties tossed around the idea of rethinking seasonal spaces. “We saw a big opportunity to reinvigorate Bucky’s dome, to re-enchant Montrealers with the surrounding grounds, and to shape the city’s cultural landscape and skyline,” Benshetrit explains. “With the upcoming anniversaries (Expo 67’s 50th, Montreal’s 375th, and Canada’s 150th) coinciding at once, the timing for a new public space couldn’t be better.” The studio published the design as an alternate vision to Parc Jean-Drapeau's current development plan, hoping to help the public visualize the site's potential.
If accepted, the proposal could potentially come to fruition in as early as two years—a new beginning for a exceptional chunk of Montreal. Such an unprecedented vision is not unlike Studio Dror’s track record of breaking design barriers. “Every project we take on is a first, of one sort or another. It’s in our DNA to rethink everything—be it a vase or a city.” What’s next for the studio? “I can only tell you that it will be transformational.”