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.


  1. I had no idea this idea was tossed around before Expo, let alone post-Expo!
    This is a brilliant proposal with unending possibilities… as an art piece alone, it would provide a great opportunity; the first idea that popped into my head was that of a spinning globe, for example. Whether it would be unique in the world or not, this upgrade would make an already iconic, visually appealing landmark a literal beacon on False Creek, and I have come to love the colour injected into the grays of Vancouver in the same way that BC Place does now, or Canada Place on the Burrard Inlet waterfront. I’ve also read that development will block a lot of BC Place’s lighting effects soon enough, so the Science World site will become of even greater significance, including as anchor, as the CBD pushes eastward with the new St. Paul’s medical complex on the flats, for example.
    Science World redux could also help serve as catalyst for new development on both sides of False Creek, including new education facilities, the proposed surf park, the new green spaces created upon demolition of the viaducts, an internationally acclaimed skate park, hotels, the new casino property, Rogers Arena improvements, and even the “Olympic” tram line from Granville Island to Stanley Park. It is already, of course, a bit of a transportation hub with the renovated Main Street SkyTrain station, Pacific Central Station (as a gateway port), and the bus depot.
    The Main/Terminal and Yaletown neighbourhoods are becoming “cooler” by the day, and residential use in the area has skyrocketed in the past couple of decades, particularly post-Olympic Games. The Science World project would complement beautifully an arts and entertainment district including Library Square, the CBC facilities, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and a new art gallery at Larwill Park. This was, after all, what the area was to become before the emphasis shifted a bit in the residential direction, too far for my liking!
    All of this on top of cleaner, more capable, more efficient and infinitely more complex technology than would have been the case thirty (or even ten) years ago. This is an exciting proposal! I would wholeheartedly support this project. Is there a good chance it may actually go forward?

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