Do the Values of Man and His World Matter More Today than they Did in 1967?

“To be a man is, precisely, to be responsible. It is to feel, when setting one’s stone, that one is contributing to the building of the world.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand and Stars (1939)

By Carmen Desmeules (translated by Emilie Gosselin)

Man and His World, the official theme of Expo 67, is the title of a novel by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

“It is a book that celebrates friendship, mutual assistance and humanistic values. This is the vision of the directors of Expo. They want to convey the idea of an ideal world. To build bridges among peoples.”

Expo 67 guidebooks described the Exhibition as follows: “It will be the history of mankind, his exploration of the physical universe, his desire to discover, understand and produce, the manner with which he assimilates, organises and uses his knowledge to improve his destiny and, as a social being, the manner with which he has sought to and still searches for a way to live in peace and harmony with others.”

In October 1962, a dozen distinguished Canadians, including professors, artists, architects, writers, journalists and parliamentarians, participated in a conference to define the theme and sub-themes of the Exhibition.

The participants included, among others, architect Raymond T. Affleck, Dr. Wilder Penfield from the Montreal Neurological Institute; architect Victor Prus; writer Gabrielle Roy; Director of Installations Claude Robillard (who ended up resigning a few months later); and President of SACD, the Société des auteurs et compositeurs dramatiques du Canada, Jean-Louis Roux.

The Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) require that the theme already be chosen at the time of a country’s application, therefore Man and His World, a suggestion from Manitoba writer Gabrielle Roy, was selected at this time.

During a conference in Montebello in the spring of 1963, the theme is put into motion. The conference also results in a series of recommendations, one of which being that the exhibition should define the way Man reacts to his environment.

Here are a few sketches of Man and His World in the making:

Laurence Bonfils writes:

“This elevated and profoundly human concept will mark the character of this event, and will also become the unifying element not only in terms of ideas, but on an architectural level as well.”

Sources:  La reconversion du site et des pavillons de l’Exposition universelle et internationale de Montréal de 1967 (1996) by Laurence Bonfils; “Le thème raconté” by Gabrielle Roy in Terre des hommes (1967);; Historica Canada; Encyclopédie Canadienne.

How the Directors of Expo 67 Defied the Canadian Government