|Location||160, chemin Tour-de-l'Isle|
|Owner||Environment and Climate Change Canada|
|Public transit access||Jean-Drapeau|
The Biosphere (French: La Biosphère), also known as the Montreal Biosphere (French: La Biosphère de Montréal), is a museum dedicated to the environment in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It is housed in the former United States pavilion constructed for Expo 67 located within the grounds of Parc Jean-Drapeau on Saint Helen's Island. The museum's geodesic dome was designed by Buckminster Fuller.
The structure was originally built as a component of EXPO 67, which officially opened on 27 April 1967.
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. The site remained closed until 1990.
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. 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.
The museum is housed in the former pavilion built by the United States for Expo 67. The architectural engineer of the geodesic dome was Buckminster Fuller. The building originally formed an enclosed structure of steel and acrylic cells, 76 metres (249 ft) in diameter and 62 metres (203 ft) high. It is a Class 1 (icosahedral, as differentiated from Class 2 domes, which are dodecahedral, and Class 3 ones, which are tetrahedral), 32-frequency, double-layer dome, in which the inner and outer layers are connected by a latticework of struts. (There has occasionally been confusion in mistakenly referring to this as a 16-frequency dome due to the fact that there are 15 hexagonal polygons from each pentagonally polygonal vertex of this icosahedral polyhedron to the adjacent vertex. However, the standard for measuring dome frequency is the number of triangles from vertex to vertex. Since there are two triangles from one side to the opposite side of a hexagon, there are actually 30 triangles from the edge of each pentagonal vertex in this dome to the next, plus the triangle that comprises one-fifth of the pentagonal vertex at each end of the length from one vertex to the adjacent vertex: totaling 32 triangles from the center of each vertex to the center of the next vertex.)
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. 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, but the shading system failed to work properly and was eventually disabled.
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 (121 ft) escalator, the longest ever built at the time. The Minirail monorail ran through the pavilion. In 2021, The New York Times picked the dome as one of "the 25 Most Significant Works of Postwar Architecture".
In popular culture
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.
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