Montreal Biosphere

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Montreal Biosphere
17-08-islcanus-RalfR-DSC 3883.jpg
Location160, chemin Tour-de-l'Isle
Montreal, Quebec
H3C 4G8
Typeenvironment museum
Public transit accessMtlMetro4.svg Jean-Drapeau

The Biosphere (French: "La Biosphère de Montréal") is a museum dedicated to the environment. It is located at Parc Jean-Drapeau, on Saint Helen's Island in the former pavilion of the United States for the 1967 World Fair, Expo 67 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The museum's geodesic dome was designed by Buckminster Fuller.


Biosphere at the sunset.

Expo 67[edit]

The architect of the geodesic dome was Buckminster Fuller.[1] The building originally formed an enclosed structure of steel and acrylic cells, 76 metres (249 ft) in diameter and 62 metres (203 ft) high. The dome is a Class 1, Frequency 16 Icosahedron. A complex system of shades was used to control its internal temperature. The sun-shading system was an attempt by the architect to reflect the same biological processes that the human body relies on to maintain its internal temperature.[2] Fuller's original idea for the geodesic dome was to incorporate "pores" into the enclosed system, further likening it to the sensitivity of human skin,[2] but the shading system failed to work properly and was eventually disabled.[2]

Architects from Golden Metak Productions designed the interior exhibition space. Visitors had access to four themed platforms divided into seven levels. The building included a 37-metre-long escalator, the longest ever built at the time. The Minirail monorail ran through the pavilion.[3]

1976 fire[edit]

In the afternoon of 20 May 1976, during structural renovations, a fire burned away the building's transparent acrylic bubble, but the hard steel truss structure remained.[4] The site remained closed until 1990.[5][6]

Biosphere Environment Museum[edit]

In August 1990, Environment Canada purchased the site for $17.5 million to turn it into an interactive museum showcasing and exploring the water ecosystems of the Great Lakes-Saint Lawrence River regions.[6] The museum was inaugurated in 1995 as a water museum, and is a set of enclosed buildings designed by Éric Gauthier, inside the original steel skeleton. The Biosphère changed its name in 2007 to become an environment museum. It offers interactive activities and presents exhibitions about the major environmental issues related to water, climate change, air, ecotechnologies and sustainable development.

In popular culture[edit]

The structure was used prominently in the original Battlestar Galactica television series episode "Greetings from Earth". Scenes for Robert Altman's post-apocalyptic ice age film Quintet were shot on site as well.

The Biosphere appears in the 2003 animated Jacob Two-Two TV episode "Jacob Two-Two and the Notorious Knit Knapper", in which it is used as the headquarters for a group of seniors who plan on knitting a giant tea cosy to cover Montreal.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Langdon, David (25 November 2014). "AD Classics: Montreal Biosphere / Buckminster Fuller". ArchDaily. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Massey, Jonathan (2012). "Buckminster Fuller's Reflexive Modernism". Design and Culture. 4 (3): 325–344.
  3. ^ "USA PAVILION AT EXPO video newsreel film". Newsreel. British Pathe. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
  4. ^ Bolton, KC (2009-01-31). "Photo du jour - Biosphere Burning". Spacing Montreal. Retrieved 2009-01-31.
  5. ^ A View On Cities (2007). "Biosphere, Montreal". Montréal Attractions. Retrieved 2007-06-07.
  6. ^ a b Environment Canada (2006-01-24). "A Short History of the Biosphère". The Sphere. Archived from the original on 2007-01-23. Retrieved 2007-06-07.


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 45°30′50.73″N 73°31′53.38″W / 45.5140917°N 73.5314944°W / 45.5140917; -73.5314944