Last year, during a Museum of Vancouver lecture held to honour the 30th anniversary of Expo ’86, Bruno Freschi briefly mentioned that Expo Centre’s geodesic sphere was intended to perform as a massive outdoor screen. Coordinating with the teams behind Jumbotron and OMNIMAX, a workable design was presented but unfortunately did not proceed in the period leading up to Expo.

Footage provided courtesy of the Province of British Columbia. Royal BC Museum item number V1990:09/41

I conducted an interview with Bruno to talk about the design on Vancouver is Awesome. Some excerpts from the article are provided below:

JB: If you could make any tweaks to the design of the Expo Centre today what would you make?

BF: I would add the skin back because here’s the other side of it – it’s social architecture. One of the elements of that sphere is that it is a lantern to East Vancouver. Now, Vancouver still today has this West and East Main Street divide.  The Sphere was a “signaletic icon trying to create a bridge to East Vancouver. This was that magic lantern, with public space around it for people to sit around and watch stuff. It would have been a hit during Expo and Post-Expo. It could have been a fun legacy in the public domain of the waterfront.

JB: You mention the Jumbotron acting as building dematerialization, what do you imagine playing on that screen?

BF: Anything you could do on a screen you could do there. You could run movies free to the world, or it could be commercials (which is dangerous). One can imagine live global events being broadcast to the public in open public space, I told you the little story about the projections on the sides of buildings; I was always struck by that kind of phenomenon because the building goes away and you are in the ennui of the movie, or whatever the projection is. All decoration in history tries to do that. If you study the Baroque world: Borromini, Bernini, all those guys – you discover that they are interested in that subject of dematerialization and illusion. Here we could have done it as intentional public media in the public domain.

Is it too late to resurrect a 30+ year old idea and clad the geodesic sphere in exterior screens today? Would the public be in favour of the various installations that could be programmed onto the sphere? Would commercial interests dominate its use or could the Signage By-Law limit advertisements?

Would there be outcry against light pollution? The lights from the GM pavilion had to be shut off due to their brightness, although today we have the lights from BC Place Stadium.

The full article is available here.