La Ronde

Montreal 1967

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By Ly Y. Bui

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Edited by: Isabelle Gournay
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Essay on the Official Map of Expo 67 held in Montr??al, Qu??bec, Canada in 1967 created as a final assignment in World's Fairs: Social and Architectural History, HONR 219F, Spring 2001

Essays on the Material Culture of the World's Fairs
Edited by: Patricia Kosco Cossard and Isabelle Gournay
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University of Maryland Libraries
University of Maryland
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Maryland 20720
Electronic version encoded on January 18, 2006

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Keywords:

  • Expo 67 (Montr??al, Qu??bec)
  • Exhibitions
  • Essay
  • 1901-2000
  • North America
  • Canada
  • Qu??bec
  • Montr??al
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This map is taken from the Official Souvenir book of Expo '67, sold for one dollar at the fair grounds. This book advertises "three-dimensional maps in color", and depicts the various sections of the fair. Its dimensions are about eight and a half by eleven inches. The image on our website is actually the middle portion of a map formed by the two middle pages of the book, and depicts most of La Ronde district.

La Ronde constituted the easternmost part of the Montreal exposition site, and was devoted primarily to amusement. This section was designed by a team including Joe Baker, an architect, Norman Slater, an industrial designer and light specialist, Francois Dallegret, a special effects designer, and Leonard Levitan. They were given 135 acres of man made land that had been formed as an extension of the Ile Sainte-H??l??ne. They had only four years to design an amusement center that would be used both during and after the exposition. A small island of granite, rising ten feet above the St. Lawrence River, was actually destroyed so that La Ronde could be created. The granite was blasted away, leaving a perimeter of rock, which was than surrounded by fill. The crater made by the explosion became Dolphin Lake, the body of water towards the north and center of the map.

The main entrance to La Ronde was an Expo Express stop (number 513 on the map), which arrived at the Esplanade, an open area towards the left and center of the map. Expo Express was a monorail set up especially for the fair. From there crowds could either go north to get to the Dolphin pool (511), Aquarium (512), and Pioneerland (524). They could also travel south to Children's World (528) and the Youth Pavilion (529). To reach all the other activities, visitors would go east through the Mall, the narrow strip of land bisecting the map into two sections. In Pioneerland, there was also an exhibit sponsored by the province of Alberta, called Fort Edmonton, that showed a "traditional" western setting that included such stereotypical spectacles as action-packed saloons and barber shops. At the dolphin pool, trained dolphins performed tricks to a crowd of up to 900 people. The aquarium was designed by architect George F. Ever to exhibit marine life.

At the southwest corner of the map, in addition to Children's world and the Youth Pavilion, stood the Gyrotron (535). According to many architectural critics, this was the only building of even slight architectural interest in La Ronde. It was designed by the architect Sean Kinny, and was comprised of a large pyramid connected to a smaller one. The former showcased a simulated flight through space with planets, space ships, and astronauts, while the latter showed a descent into hell, where the visitor was swallowed by a mechanical monster.

Transportation was provided via pedicabs, the "Sky Ride", and the "Minirail,". A train circuit through all the major parts of La Ronde, and its major stations are marked on the map (515, 543). The Sky Ride (519) was a gondola traveling over Dolphin lake, as can be seen in the southeast corner of the lake on the map, and ended near Le Village. It offered aerial panoramic views of the site, along with La Spirale (547), a rotating tower that took passengers up to a height of 312 feet, located between Dolphin Lake and the marina of Port Sainte-H??l??ne. To the immediate right of La Spirale was the Garden of Stars (545), designed by architect Max Roth. The building was created to provide a wide range of entertainment, including cinema or live performance. Le Village (541), in the northeast section of the island, was close to the end destination of the Sky Ride. It was inspired by Old Montreal, and was full of beer halls and restaurants. The buildings had stone walls, and they were gathered around quaint little plazas. There was also an old-fashioned carousel. The safari (550) was directly to the east of Le Village, and featured an array of exotic animals. The area past the marina was cut off from the map and offered little in the way of entertainment and amusement. There were facilities for hovercraft and helicopter entry, though few visitors arrived at this way. There was also a meteorological station that was not open to the public.

La Ronde was decorated with wind-lown flags, pin wheels, rotating units, and windsocks to promote a sense of brightness and gaiety. Even the kiosks, designed with eye-atching simple volumes, were brightly colored. Many booths were painted in day-glo colors. Some of those selling tickets were decorated with aluminum skins and antennae lights.

Several other aspects of La Ronde are worth mentioning. The Westinghouse company built a massive fountain called The Dancing Waters (530), located in the middle of Dolphin Lake. Visitors could see the display from the sides of the lake or from the Sky Ride. There was also a water ride known as "La Pitoune" (525), at the southwest corner of the Lake and, near the Gyrotron, towards the bottom of the map, a rides center (533), where the traditional amusement rides such as a Ferris Wheel and roller coasters could be found.

Today, La Ronde is an operating park with thirty-two different rides, most of them installed after the fair. Like any typical carnival or amusement park, there are children's rides as well as roller coasters. The Sky Ride is no longer accessible to the public, although the machinery is still there. La Spirale and the minirail are still in operation. Le Village has become a "medieval" village, with a "period" putt putt and a variety of restaurants. All the other amusements present at the Expo have been removed from the park. At the end of 2000 La Ronde was acquired by the Six Flags corporation, and it will probably go through many more transformations in the years to come.


Works Cited

Author unknown. "The Architect's Expo." Progressive Architecture . 1967 June vol.48, p.126-127.
Author unknown. "Behind the Scenes at Expo." Architectural and Engineering News. 1967 April vol.9, p.108-109.
Author unknown. "Lighting La Ronde." Canadian Architect. 1968 June vol.13, p.70-76.
Danzig, Philip. "A&E News Goes to Expo '67." Architectural and Engineering News. 1967 June vol.9, p.24-26.
Findling, John E.Historical Dictionary of World's Fairs and Expositions, 1851-1988. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.
Miller, Jerry. "Expo '67: Search for Order." Canadian Architect. 1967 May vol.12, p.44-54.
Richards, J.M. "Expo 67." Architectural Review. 1967 August, whole issue.
Rogatnick, Abraham. "Expo 67, The Past Recaptured." Lotus. 1968 vol.5, p.12-33.