Thursday, September 2, 2010

Savoir Faire in Montreal

Savoir Faire is off to Montreal for the weekend for some much needed R & R. I am looking forward to it immensely for a number of reasons; one of them being that Montreal has a certain savoir faire that sets it apart from other Canadian cities.

Back in 1967 Montreal being the host of Expo 67 had all the savoir faire in the world. Originally awarded to the Soviet Union to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, they pulled out for reasons unknown. After much political backbiting within Canada, Montreal was the given the right to showcase the world’s best. This was also Canada’s main celebration during its centennial year.

Expo 67’s theme was “Man and his World” based on the 1939 book entitled Terre des Hommes by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

Expo featured 90 pavilions representing Man and His World themes, from nations, corporations, and industries including the U.S. pavilion, a geodesic dome designed by Buckminster Fuller. Expo 67 also featured the Habitat 67 housing complex designed by architect Moshe Safdie, which is still occupied.

Australia was duly represented with a pavilion set on steel and concrete pillars, and sloping walls of glass and aluminum to aid natural lighting.

Although not the most architecturally significant on the exterior at Expo it was a tour de force on the inside.

Visitors viewed large colour transparencies showing life in Australia mounted in a futuristic sculptural display as they proceeded by spiral ramp to view the exhibits.

In the main exhibit hall incredibly sculptural large curved wooden beams rose through the floor to the ceiling following the lines of the innovative air conditioning ducts which were funnels set into the ceiling. The whole are had off-white shag pile carpeting which swept from the floor up the walls, between the beams and to the ceiling.

This was Australia’s coming of age in the pop decade of the1960’s in design and style with the whole concept affectionately being nicknamed “Pop Goes Australia”

Specially designed seating with built in headphones told the story of Australia. Black Chairs for English and orange for French.

One could be forgiven for thinking that you were in some swish airport terminal such as Saarinen’s TWA terminal at JFK, however on a warmer scale with the wood and the carpeting.

21 hostesses under the supervision of a former Miss Australia met visitors to the Australian pavilion. Their uniforms consisted of fashionably short A-line sleeveless skimmers of Australian wool gabardine, with matching hip-length double-breasted jackets. Most of these young hostesses came from rural areas and had never been out of Australia so this was the trip of a lifetime, with their heads full of pride and glamour.

Of course with most of Expo’s buildings this was dismantled, however when visiting this weekend I am going to be thinking of when the world came to Montreal for some savoir faire and some young Australians represented their county with pride and savoir faire!
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