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Remembering the Pulp & Paper Pavilion at Expo 67 40 Years Later

Forty years ago Canadians were in a festive mood as the nation was celebrating its 100th anniversary of confederation. Canada opened its door to the world by staging Expo 67, referred to by many as th...

September 1, 2007  By Pulp & Paper Canada

Forty years ago Canadians were in a festive mood as the nation was celebrating its 100th anniversary of confederation. Canada opened its door to the world by staging Expo 67, referred to by many as the last century’s most successful world exposition. On two magical islands, Ile St-Helene and Ile Notre Dame in the St. Laurent River, the city of Montral showcased the theme of Man and His World. The islands’ location had historical significance, as the river symbolized the link that Canada shared with the world, originally an important trading route and also an entry point for early immigration. From April 27 to October 29, 1967, Expo 67 featured 90 pavilions from various nations, corporations and industries, all highlighting the best achievements of mankind. The Montreal Star described the exposition as “the most staggering Canadian achievement since this vast land was finally linked by a transcontinental railway.” In 1967, Canada had a population of 20 million.

Expo 67 provided Montral with the opportunity to show itself as an international city in a nation that had come of age. The exposition’s huge success attracted visitors who were the most notable people of the day, such as Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Grace Kelly, Robert F. Kennedy, Charles de Gaulle, Marlene Dietrich and Maurice Chevalier, among others. Then Director of Public Relations, Marketing and Communications for Expo 67, Yves Jasmin recalled, “My office telephone never stopped ringing with notable people asking for press passes after they heard how successful this fair was. Imagine: on the third day, we had 565,000 visitors. We just seemed to fly high from that point.” He added, “We expected 30 million visitors and we had over 50 million. This is significant for a nation of 20 million.”

Pulp & Paper presence


The exposition’s mandate, in part, was to tell the story of man’s exploration of the physical world and his drive to discover, understand, and produce. There were only two industry-sponsored pavilions at Expo 67: the steel pavilion, and the pulp and paper pavilion, the latter being sponsored collectively by the paper companies of the time and the Canadian Pulp & Paper Association (CPPA). Montral was home to the head offices of the major papermakers and the leaders of the industry could not pass up the opportunity to have a unique presence at the world’s fair. In essence, the industry’s importance to the nation had to be shown to the world, so the Canadian pulp and paper industry elected to participate at Expo 67 by sponsoring a unique structure that told the story of how Canadian forests act as the raw material for paper, which at the time was deemed the principle tool for recording man’s thoughts. While 40 years later, man’s relationship with paper has evolved in many diverse directions, the pride of papermakers remains as strong as ever.

Joe Aspler, like many young people living in Montral at that time, spent most of that summer on the islands. Today he is a principal scientist at Paprican, but memories of that special fair remain vivid in his mind. He recalled, “The unofficial guide book used by most people at the time gave the pulp and paper pavilion the highest rating. It was a must-see.”

Stylized exterior

During the preparation of this column, it was noted that everybody working in the industry today who happened to be in Montral in 1967 recalls both the structure’s exterior and the pavilion presentations with fond memories. The exterior of the building is impossible to forget, and was designed to create an impact. Forty-four stylized evergreen trees topped the structure, creating a unique sight. They were of varying heights, the tallest reaching eight stories and together they symbolized the vast resource from which the pulp and paper industry had grown. The stylized treetops were painted in four different shades of green. By day, this sight added colour and variety to the Expo skyline and, by night, a certain air of fantasy. The trees were constructed with tongue and groove Douglas fir plywood over a steel frame. All of the trees had the same base, but the heights did vary from 5 to 18 m. “It was striking in appearance, something that you remember,” recalled Yves Jasmin. The stylized concept was continued with a sculpture of a roll of paper being unwound, which first greeted visitors in front of the pavilion.

The designer of the much-applauded structure was William Kissiloff. “I wanted to create a building that evoked a simple emotional response, a certain type of relationship with nature, which the industry obviously had and was proud of,” said Kissiloff. “The structure was located close to the two giants of the time, the Soviet Union pavilion and the Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome housing the US, so we had to compete with our own uniqueness. I always felt that the pulp and paper pavilion’s trees succeeded in standing out between its two giant neighbour pavilions,” said Kissiloff.

His winning design was one of eight that was initially considered, but he won the contract because, as he explained, “we captured the essence of the industry and created a favourable image that young and old could relate to.” William Kissiloff’s expertise is creating structures that are designed to attract attention and thus inform, teach and entertain. His career spans 40 years and when he reflected about Montral in 1967, he said, “the Association was there at every stage of the design, simply because they cared so much for their industry.”

Pavillion interior

The pavilion was dedicated to Canada’s rich natural resource of forests and derived products. This theme carried through the four major exhibits in the interior of the pavilion. The first section used whimsical sound effects and animation to describe forest legends from across the world. Next, the visitor entered an unusual theatre where they were treated to the history of papermaking in Canada. The unusual aspect of the theatre is that the walls were designed to suggest an unrolling roll of paper. “It was such a novelty that people remember it to this day,” said Kissiloff. Section three described the industry’s impact on the Canadian economy. To round out the visit, section four, called Lab 67, was a live action presentation in the form of a science wizard show. An actor playing the role of a scientist presented lively demonstrations that dealt with the chemical aspects of paper production. As the visitor left the interior of the structure, artisans demonstrated the technique of making paper by hand.


This nostalgic view of the industry’s success 40 years ago would not be complete without looking at the next 40 years. In a survey of the top five CEOS of pulp and paper corporations there was consensus that what was perceived as a Canadian industry in 1967 is now a global industry, which because of its fiercely competitive nature challenges itself to evolve in directions that would have been unheard of in 1967.

Your comments and suggestions are welcomed at zsoltp@pulpandpapercanada.com

notable facts about EXPO 67

* 17.6m cubic yards of fill used to create 297 acres of additional land around existing islands in the St. Lawrence River.

* Expo-Express transit system carried 44 million people during exhibition.

* There were 39 restaurants and 66 snack bars.

* There were 800 employees in the amusement park.

* 30 day transit strike in late September halted city buses and new Metro system and is said to have caused loss of a potential five million in attendance.

* Seasons passes to Expo 67 were in the form of passports.

* Canada’s travel dollars reached a peak of $1.25 billion in 1967.

* The U.S. Pavilion, designed by Buckminster Fuller as a gigantic geodesic dome structure compl
ete with an interior monorail, was destroyed by fire on May 20, 1976.

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