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THE NETHERLANDS PAVILION AT EXPO 67:

THE ARCHITECTURE OF MISREPRESENTATION

Fig u re 1 : Op land Car toon M ur al in t he N eth er land s P avi lion


S ource: Dixon, Meredith. Expo '67 Slide Collection. http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/expo67/slides/LARGE/(3D)_35_Netherlands_CartoonMural.jpg.

Adriana Mogosanu
260327734
ARCH 355: Architectural History 4
March 27th, 2015

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Montreals 1967 Expo made explicit the crossing into the future of

mankind, exploring human achievements in a historical context. Expo theme


"Man and His World" emphasized, much as its predecessors, progress in the
fields of science and technology1. The daring national and thematic pavilions
took the role of an enveloping architecture, generating the microcosm of the
exhibits and setting the stage for projection of national image at an international
stage (Figure 2).
Expo Commissioner Pierre Dupuy
particularly recalls the Netherlands
pavilion, alongside the Japanese one, as
balancing between tradition and the
avant-garde2. A closer look at the content
of the Netherlands exhibit reveals a
recurrent theme: objects of the past
Figure 2: Tomorrow Soars at the Fair
Source: Life Magazine Cover,
https://www.flickr.com/photos/whitebeard
/4556059195/

collide with representations of the future,


blurring the boundary between illusion and
reality. The Expo experience becomes

centered on the interaction in the fictitious space of reconciliation between



1 Cities of Culture
2
Dupuy, Pierre. Expo 67 ou la dcouverte de la fiert , 1972. (pays en equilibre
entre la tradition et lavant-garde, p.138)

tradition and innovation. In the context of a high caliber international gathering,


national depiction was naturally fueled by a sentiment of pride. Historical
triumphs were juxtaposed and contextualized within the broader scope of
futuristic aspirations. The essay explores issues of authenticity of national
representation, and will investigate the architecture of the Netherlands pavilion
through the lens of its content. The Dutch foreign affairs consul, Jaf Van Alpen,
enunciated the countrys interests quite clearly:
In countless ways, it should be made clear to Expo visitors that
the Netherlands is a modern country, where industry plays a
leading role.3

Figure 3: The Netherlands Pavilion (Pays Bas), located on Ile Ste. Helene
Source : Compagnie canadienne de l'Exposition internationale de 1967
http://documents.recitus.qc.ca/content/document-14-les-pavillons-nationaux-de-llesainte-hlne


Paul. "Nederland klaar voor Wereld Expo 67." May 14, 1966.

4 Klare,

Located on le Sainte-Hlne (Figure 3), the pavilion's architecture contrasted


strongly with the old-world charm generally associated with Holland. The Dutch
submission revealed a zealous attempt at exposing Hollands contribution to the

Figure 4: The Netherlands Pavilion


Source: NCF Expo 67 website
http://expo67.ncf.ca/expo_netherlands_p1.html

topic of technological development. In particular, the Dutch pavilions imposing


space frame structure addressed the desire to be seen as an industrially
advanced country, dominant over the forces of nature.
One element of the exhibition, a mural by contemporary political
Cartoonist Opland (Figure 1), provides a rare self-critique of the exhibit, and will
serve as a tool for exploring the relationship between the exhibited content, the

enveloping architecture, and its object of representation. The cartoon addresses


the bias towards a positive self-representation embedded within the narrative of
the pavilion, contextualizing the vitrine presented to Expo visitors. It ridicules
the artificial process of creation of a national image from disparate or
stereotypical elements of culture and criticizes the shortcomings of Dutch
attempts at cultural representation. Oplands caricature of the process of
national image building is mirrored within the content of the pavilion. Satire is
evident in the cartoon but upon further investigation, it also surfaces from the
discordant relationship between object, content and architecture. Architecture
plays a distinct role of mediation between national realities and ambitions: it
serves as creator of a modern image, in relation to the vernacular content of the
pavilion. It masks the disengaging quality of the content, and it reinforces a
narrative of technological advancement that is absent within the exhibit. The
passport to Expo 67 gives access to a highly curated version of national reality,
where the architecture of the pavilion plays a distinct role of mediation between
future aspirations and historical past.
Content, curation and image creation
Representation of national identity rested as much on the pavilions
architecture and its projected exterior appearance, as it did on the carefully

curated content of the exhibitions. The Netherlands pavilions prominent


structure meant to support the running concept of technological supremacy
over water. As stressed by the Dutch Foreign Affair Consul, the pavilions
concept stemmed from the fact that "the Netherlands is a country surrounded
by water."4 Indeed, the battle against the water was an essential part of the
countrys development and the Dutch aimed to use it as the driving force of
their exhibition, utilizing this opportunity to showcase their technological
supremacy over the elements. The innovative triodetic structure of the pavilion
departs significantly from the interior exhibition: the contrast between
architecture and content is that of modern versus vernacular, old world realities
inhabiting new technology. Oplands cartoon (Figure 1) serves as a starting
point for examining the process of national image creation, as it contains the
deliberate dissection of elements of cultural representation and their curation
into a work of satire. The mural is busy, striking in its caricature of culture, as
artists, their instruments and vices converge into a comic mess. Opland criticizes
the discourse of cultural representation and dissemination, satirizing the process
through senseless juxtaposition of disparate elements, coalescing of decorative,
frivolous features, and vulgarization of culture into a cataloguing of null content.
Culture is not in the content, but in the enumeration of renowned artists, the

4

Klare, 1966

repetition of famous works of art, distilled into stereotypical, recognizable


elements. The classic ionic column is used as a resting place for an ashtray and a
poster holder where one can read the names of famous writers. The idea of
culture, or its portrayal to a foreign audience, is reduced to cataloguing and
stereotyping. The portrayal of national identity for a foreign audience is thus
vulgarized in preparation for what becomes a mass consumption of unintelligible
elements of culture. This amalgamation and enumeration as a means of
manifesting culture, ridiculed in Oplands cartoon, is actually replicated in the
content of the pavilion. The majority of the exhibits catalogue vernacular and
classical traditions, such as displays of embroidery, Leerdam glass, scaled
models of Hollands streets and ports, and a presentation of the politically
prominent House of Orange Nassau5. The resulting exhibit can be described
more readily as a cacophony of national stereotypes, than the intended
compelling odyssey of national progress through technological advancement.


5
Klare, 1966

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To the unassuming fairgoer, this incongruity, worthy of satire, remains

imperceptible. Lasting impressions were made by the architecture and not


necessarily by the content, as Francis, a 7-year old at the time, recalls.6 The
architecture of the Netherlands Pavilion is successful in creating an image that
diametrically opposes the content of the exhibition, addressing national

Figure 5: The Netherlands Pavilion


Source: NCF Expo 67 Website
http://expo67.ncf.ca/expo_netherlands_p6.html


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Francis Interview, 2015

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aspirations of technological development in a
modern way (Figure 5). In line with the prevailing
mega structure trend of the decade, a predominant
theme at Expo 67,7 architect Eijkelenboom hangs
the space of the Dutch pavilion, roof and walls, from
an immense space frame structure (Figure 6). An
impressive 35 miles of aluminum tubes, in the form
of prefabricated pieces, are directly assembled on
site. 8 The result is a triumph of engineering9, an
intriguing and futuristic structure, with a light, airy
feel. The Dutch Pavilion is frequently mentioned as
a prelude to the groundbreaking work of
Buckminster Fuller and the American Pavilion. The

Figure 6: Triodetic Structure


Section showing hanging walls
and ceiling
Source: (Canadian Corporation
for the 1967 World Exhibition
1969)

intricate joints offer the advantage of combining


strength and flexibility of form. Although the Dutch
pavilion made use of a space frame structure, the


7
Dupuy, 1972
8
Canadian Corporation for the 1967 World Exhibition. Expo 67.
9 Lownsbrough, John. The Best Place to Be: Expo 67 and Its Time. Toronto:
Penguin Group, 2012.

qualities of modularity and flexibility of space are not evident from the volumes
or interior spaces. The final product seems like a fixed space, hanging from an
enclosed delicate structure. The structures capacity to rule over land, covering a
large space flexibly, is still an impressive feat, analogous to the Dutch
exploitation of water through technological prowess. Architecture becomes a
symbol of high technology, supporting Hollands aspiring position as a leader in
the field, a country artificially built on water. In contrast, the interior of the
pavilion contains a variety of disparate expositions merging into a potpourri of
Dutch culture. Fake historicism, displaced content inhabit high technology,
much in the same way the classical column is decorated in Oplands cartoon
mural. The satirical potential of the visual comparison, achievable through
juxtaposition of modern and vernacular remains unrevealed. Emergent
technology is used to create the architecture of the pavilion, while its
antagonistic old world relics, survive in the content of the building.

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Quality, experience and masking


The experience of the exhibits is completely disjoined from the structural
qualities of the pavilion, with various techniques being used to create an illusory
Dutch landscape for the
visitors. Oplands cartoon
proves to be revealing, as
its exaggeration of style
and scale, aimed at
creation of humor, informs
an analysis of the
experiential quality of the
exhibits themselves. It
Figure 7: Opland Cartoon Mural
Source: Fotoleren website

offers a stylized

http://www.fotoleren.nl/component/bronnenbank/?view=b

ronnen&start=84640

representation of art,

mocking two-dimensional book-culture, in an exaggeratedly scaled cartoon


turned-mural. Physical distortion and exaggeration of scale are also reproduced
at the level of the exhibits, creating a flattened representation of space and a
caricature of the Dutch landscape. In light of such a discordant experiential
quality between interior and exterior space, the architectures role of masking

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the discrepancy between the miniaturized vernacular interior and the futuristic
exterior becomes apparent.
The cartoon, traditionally of small scale, is blown out of proportion, taking the
extent of a mural, enveloping and creating space. This unexpected exaggeration
as a means of delivering a more poignant punch line successfully contributes
to the comic character of the work. Used in the content of the pavilion, it fails to
portray the theme, Netherlands relationship to water, in an engaging manner, all
the while making apparent the poorly sustained account of technological
advancement,
unassisted by an
immersive, equally
advanced exhibit.
Adjusting scale to
integrate elements
Figure 8: The Netherlands Pavilion
Source: Dixon Expo 67 Slide Collection Web site
http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/expo67/slides/LARGE/(3D)_34_Netherlands_AmsterdamHarbour.jpg

of Hollands
landscape, from
views of landscape

and industry, to urban sights and minuscule details of everyday life is a


technique used throughout the pavilion. Visitors enter an overtly fake space, a
fictional reality in the Gulliverian sense, where the industrial endeavors are

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presented in the form of miniature models (Figure 8). The vibrant exterior
architecture of the pavilion hides a very flat representation of Holland interiorly.
The cork model of the traditional Amsterdam street (Figure 9) offers more a
kitsch, two-dimensional representation as the opportunity to infuse engagement
in the exhibition is lost in the creation of flat and dull content.

Figure 9: Model of traditional Dutch house in the streets of Amsterdam


Source: Westland Expo 67 Website
http://www.westland.net/expo67/map-docs/netherlands.htm

The distortion of space and distance is further reinforced through flagrant


artifice: the addition of a phone where visitors could call the Mayor of
Amsterdam and hear a pre-recorded message created a fake sense of proximity
and familiarity. Curiously, in a pavilion aiming to show technological

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advancement, an immersive way of recreating the Dutch streetscape is sacrificed


at the expense of a flattened and miniaturized caricature of Holland.
The triodetic structures
opaque envelope
successfully occludes this
limitation. Despite being
partitioned into three
distinct volumes,
articulated exteriorly, the
pavilion is almost always
opaque, bypassing the
Figure10: Inside the American Pavilion
Source: DC Hillier Expo 67 Photo Gallery
http://www.dchillier.com/expoextra/

opportunity for filtration


that is allowed by the

structures thin tubular elements (Figures 5 & 12). The US pavilion offers a clear
view of its surroundings, positioning its visitors centrally, at a place of
importance. The Dutch pavilion misses the opportunity to achieve a more
engaging space, through the visual connection between inside and outside
(Figure 10). The envelope segregates the interior of the exhibition from its
surroundings, with the exception of small openings towards the river.

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A cantilevered volume feigns interaction with the exterior monorail (Figure 11).
The monorail passes underneath the Netherlands pavilion, but fails to interact
with it as successfully as it does with the American pavilion. Francis remembers
riding the blue monorail as one of the highlights of his experience at Expo,
particularly enjoying waving to the crowds around the pavilions10. The
camaraderie achieved through visual connection in a shared experience is less

Figure11: The Yellow Monorail passes under the Netherlands Pavilion


Source: Archives de Montreal Photo Gallery Website
http://archivesdemontreal.com/mots-clefs/expo-67/


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Francis Interview, 2015

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likely to occur under a deeply shaded metal canopy, as is the case in the
Netherlands Pavilion.The architecture masks and supplements for the content,
which is contained in a safe space, where any discrepancies with the exterior
image projected by the pavilion are successfully concealed (Figure 12).

Figure12: The Netherlands Pavilion remains impenetrable to the gaze, even when lit up.
Source: Westland Expo 67 Website
http://www.westland.net/expo67/map-docs/swanlake.htm

The experiential success of the pavilion is severed by the contents fake


historicism, manifested in altered, miniaturized, or displaced objects. The
architecture of the pavilion asks as a mask, allowing for independence of bland
content from the exterior technologically advanced image, obscuring any

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inconsistencies. Despite the potential for visibility allowed for by the thin
elements of the triodetic structure, the would-be ironic juxtaposition of
contrasting elements is avoided through a masking envelope. In sum, the
exhibits take on the qualities of the cartoon, to create a miniaturized and flat
depiction of Holland. The Pavilion successfully occludes this contrasting content
by acting as a mask, and limiting interaction with the exterior.
Narrative, Circulation and the Fourth Wall
The overarching narrative of the Netherlands pavilion aims to be a tale of
technological advancement, one that allowed man to conquer water. While this
narrative was sustained by the pavilions architecture, it gradually faded in the
transition from interior to exterior. This failure to produce an intended image is
most directly addressed in the title of Oplands cartoon: The Netherlands are
(sorry) is a country full of culture. The obvious satirical tone of this statement is
a rare Brechtian moment within the exhibit. The climax is the confession of
discrepancy, the recognition of failed attempts at national representation
through techniques worthy of satire, rather than, in the case of the current
exhibition, the advanced technological society Holland claims to be.
The message of the cartoon comes in the form of a confession the revealing of
the intended message, stated ironically. The failure to authentically represent

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Hollands aspirations within the content of the exhibit is never made apparent. It
is instead successfully mediated by the pavilions architecture, which enforces a
distinct narrative and lends credibility to the exhibits discordant content. The
circulation and interior arrangement of the pavilion simulate a condition of
continuity reinforcing the narrative of Dutch technological supremacy over
water even when this story is not supported by its content or its quality. The
pavilion creates an environment that mediates the fractured narrative between
disparate exhibits, ultimately reinforcing an image of Holland that is true of
national aspirations, but poorly materialized within the exhibits. The running
concept of the countrys relationship to water was developed only superficially in

Figure 13: Plan of the Netherlands Pavilion


Source: http://expo67.ncf.ca/floor_plan_netherlands_expo67.html

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the content of the exhibits. The architectures regrettable lack of interaction with
the water is limited to a large opening of the envelope at the end of the
trajectory, facing the river, as well as a wave basin, with the sound of sloshing
water, placed outside the pavilion. This latter, more technologically advanced
element of the exhibit was actually recycled from the 1958 Brussels Expo11. In
contrast to other less architecturally imposing pavilions, such as the Czech one,
the content of the Netherlands pavilion falls short of producing an engagement
between exhibit and viewer, or a compelling narrative aligned with Hollands
aspirations (Figure14). In many ways the opposite of the Netherlands Pavilion,
the Czech pavilion uses glass and film in innovative ways, creating immersive
audio-visual environments, simulating spaces from images (Figure 15). Culture
and technology are not presented separately, nor are they merely catalogued in
a bland exhibition. The Czech exhibition tells a compelling story, synthesizing an
image of Czech national identity in a creative manner. The popular pavilion was
criticized, however, for its lack of clear circulation, or nonexistant route,
where spectators became jammed along the way 12.


11
Klare 1966
12 Baker, J. (1967) Expo and the future City

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In contrast, the Netherlands relies on informative films, and physical

models rather dull choices of representation with regards to the futuristic


discourse of the exterior. The cohesion of the story seems to be achieved
through the architectures imposed continuity of movement, mimicking the flow
of water more successfully than the content of the pavilion or its quality. The five
rooms of the pavilion are connected through elevators and escalators, in one
continuous circulation path, with an entrance as input and an exit as output.
(Figure 13)

Figure 14: the Czech Pavilion s modern and sober faade


http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/expo-67/slides/LARGE/(3B)_1_CzechoslovakiaPavilion.jpg

There is little opportunity for lingering or self-directed exploration, as the whole

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circulation follows one line of possible movement. In this highly calculated


progression through space, the visitor
moves fast and forgets, with the
impossibility to look back, as he is
presented with a new scene,
demanding attention at every turn.
Generally, Expo 67 was successful in
integrating visitors in an immersive
experience. Many of the exhibits were
successfully representative of
Figure 15: Film projected on moving cubes,
inside the Czechoslovakian Pavilion. Source:
http://www.westland.net/expo67/mapdocs/cinema.htm

technological advancements. Francis


recalls Expo as a magic futuristic
city, where everything was

fascinating.13 In contrast, the Netherlands pavilion overtly transforms visitors


into passengers circulating though a space where architectural qualities
supplement a lack of engaging content. A certain degree of cohesiveness is
imposed on disparate elements, their contrasting juxtaposition merged through
the flowing trajectory within the space. The moment of truth that crowns the
cartoon is thus never achieved in the relationship between architecture and

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Francis Interview, 2015

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content.
Conclusion
Expo 67 brought the world to a spot, creating a rupture in time and space
through imposed propinquity and juxtaposition of traditional, modern and
futuristic elements. Expo was expected to place Montreal on the map of the
world. Instead, the map of the world was placed over Montreal14. An illusory
version of the globe, a microcosm of conflated national representations, Expo
was a place of contrast and a rich source of satirical content. While Oplands
cartoon was produced independently of the architecture of the Dutch pavilion, it
inadvertently predicts the shortcomings in the content and effort to produce a
compelling national image at an international fair. The exhibit has an inherent
satirical potential, as it amalgamates, exaggerates and catalogues elements of
Dutch culture deemed significant at an international level. The effect is further
amplified by the contrast between the content of the interior and the futuristic
space-frame architecture. The split-ended job of the pavilion became to address
its own dissociation from traditional Dutch culture. It housed the vernacular,
while creating an image for the modern. It reconciled historical past with
futuristic aspirations. The architecture thus mitigates discrepancies in national
representation by fashioning a visual identity for the country through its

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Francis Interview, 2015

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structure, by moderating the conflict between old and new through occlusion of
the interior space, and finally, by creating the transitional narrative between
vernacular and modern through its circulation. Perhaps this process aimed to
resolve deeper issues, or contemporary anxieties, resulting from the cultural and
spatial rift that Expo undoubtedly caused. As any era of change, people were as
excited about the temporary Expo, as they were apprehensive of that which they
did not understand. Nevertheless, Francis recalls feeling a sense of optimism,
the future looked bright15. The old is not forgotten, as it is presented as a vital
part, a building block for the new. Ironically, the daring triodetic structure of the
Netherlands Pavilion, prefabricated and assembled on the fairs site, rested on a
base of Dutch-made brick. The foundation for the future is thus its vernacular
past, and the epitome of the sustained illusion that two realities, modern and
vernacular, cannot only coexist, but that they are absolutely necessary and
integral parts of Dutch society.


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Francis Interview, 2015

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Bibliography


Baker, J. (1967) Expo and the future City Architectural review. 142, 151-4
Canadian Corporation for the 1967 World Exhibition. Expo 67. Montreal: The
Corporation, 1969.

Dixon, Meredith. Expo '67 Slide Collection. http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/expo67/slides/LARGE/(3D)_35_Netherlands_CartoonMural.jpg.

Dupuy, Pierre. Expo 67 ou la dcouverte de la fiert. Montreal: Les ditions la
presse, 1972.
Francis (last name undisclosed), Interview by Adriana Mogosanu. (March 10,
2015).

Expo 67 NCF Website, http://expo67.ncf.ca. (accessed February 02, 2015)
http://expo67.ncf.ca/floor_plan_netherlands_expo67.html.

Klare, Paul. "Nederland klaar voor Wereld Expo 67." May 14, 1966.
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Life Magazine. Tomorrow soars at the fair. April 27, 1967.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/whitebeard/4556059195/ (accessed February 20,
2015)

Lownsbrough, John. The Best Place to Be: Expo 67 and Its Time. Toronto:
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Stanton, Jeffrey. November 11, 2006. http://www.westland.net/expo67/mapdocs/netherlands.htm (accessed February 17, 2015).
. November 11, 2006. http://www.westland.net/expo67/mapdocs/cinema.htm (accessed February 17, 2015).