Some thoughts on pavilion architecture:
The Canada pavilion at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics is an ugly disgrace. It’s also not up to code. But somehow its blatant shittiness exemplifies the current state of Canadian politics and culture: uninspired, uninformed and either manufactured by Americans or undermined by the impulse to ape the US. Admittedly, comparing the Expo ‘67 pavilion to the 2010 pavilion is a tad superficial, but I think it serves as an architectural metaphor for the current trajectory of the Canadian notion.
The ‘67 pavilion was designed by Rod Robbie & Paul Schoeler. Robbie was an anti-nuclear weapons activist who would go on to receive the Order of Canada for being “an architect known for his innovation.” While Schoeler is credited with bringing Modernism to Ottawa and remembered as one of Canada’s most adventurous architects. The central structure of the pavilion was an inverted pyramid, called Katimavik, which translates as “meeting place” in Inuktitut - and served as a symbol of Canadian society.
Lester B. Pearson was PM at the time of the Expo - his legacy is massive: He is the father of modern peacekeeping and won a Nobel Peace Prize in ‘57 for for his role in defusing the Suez Crisis. Universal health care, student loans, the Canada pension system, a new minimum wage, the 40-hour work week and the Maple Leaf flag were all made possible by his leadership and co-operation with Tommy Douglas. And he also instituted the world’s first race-free immigration system - the bedrock of Canadian multiculturalism, and a policy innovation that has lead Canada to have the highest per capita immigration rate in the world.
"Threats to global survival, though they are sometimes exaggerated in apocalyptic language which makes our flesh creep, are real. The prophets of doom and gloom may be proven wrong but it is a chilling fact that man can now destroy his world by nuclear explosion or ecological erosion. The stark and inescapable fact is that today we cannot defend our society by war since total war is total destruction, and if war is used as an instrument of policy, eventually we will have total war. Therefore, the best defense of peace is not power, but the removal of the causes of war, and international agreements which will put peace on a stronger foundation than the terror of destruction."
- Lester B. Pearson
Alternatively. The prefabricated (!) 2010 pavilion was designed and built by a US firm based in Chicago. After its unveiling, Vancouver’s premier architect, Bing Thom, called the pavilion “an embarrasment.” It’s bland aesthetic looks like something you might see left unoccupied next to a run-down strip mall. A discount furniture store, a 24-hour gym, a retail outlet, etc. It has no character and accomplishes nothing. Just like our current PM, Stephen Harper, who is an inversion of Pearson.
Whereas Pearson put in place the framework for the Canadian notion, Harper has done his best to turn Canada into USA lite. Since taking office in 2006, he has yet to accomplish anything of note other than the marginal appeasement of his critics and the doling out of populist gestures (apologies, tax cuts) so that he can maintain a useless minority government. He has failed to capture a majority twice and his party is currently embroiled in a detainee torture scandal, a situation exasperated by his boldest move yet: the wildly unpopular proroguing of parliament.
“I don’t know all the facts on Iraq, but I think we should work closely with the Americans.”
- Stephen Harper
That said, there’s loads of amazing stuff transpiring on all around Canada, sonically, textually, politically and so forth, but on the macro level, the Canadian notion is immobile. All of our major media outlets are bankrupt or on their way - the CBC mother corp is more irrelevant than ever, and our parliament is beyond dysfunctional and possibly broken.
The Canada of 2010 seems to have rejected the very innovation that made “Canada” possible, and has in its place adopted a policy of cheap prefabrication. Like the fake made-in-China Cowichan sweaters being sold at the Bay - it’s proven easier to outsource our brand for profit than it is to keep our cultural integrity intact and build something original.