Man in/and his World

A postcard from Expo 67 with the event’s final theme noted at bottom.

Our August profile of RAIC Gold Medallist Blanche Lemco van Ginkel included a preliminary plan for Expo 67 with the caption “Blanche’s vision statement for the world’s fair, which she titled ‘Man in his World’, outlined the theme which shaped Expo’s guiding principles.”

Reader Victor Kolynchuk inquired whether an error had been made, since the final theme for Expo 67 was “Man and his World.” Kolynchuk referred to Gabrielle Roy’s account of how the theme was developed based on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s book Terre des hommes, in a three-day meeting at the Seigneury Club in Montebello, Quebec. The meeting was attended by her, novelist Hugh MacLennan, planner Claude Robillard, and other prominent Canadian thinkers.

We contacted Blanche van Ginkel’s daughter, Brenda, who supplied the caption information. “The caption as written is correct,” says Brenda. She explained that Blanche’s writing predates the conference, as can be seen in documents held at the van Ginkel Associates archives at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA).

Blanche says that before the theme for Expo was “Man and his World,” Blanche and Sandy van Ginkel’s vision was to show man’s hand in shaping the world, rather than showing man’s place in the world. “Personally, I think this truly reflects their modernist roots,” says Brenda.

“While the theme did indeed become ‘Man and his World,’ Blanche emphasized that that is not where she and Sandy started, when I had asked her about this a few years ago. Their intent was different than that when they wrote their vision for Expo.”

The firm van Ginkel Associates was originally hired as planners for Expo 67 and Sandy was the first planner for the city on the project, until a change in leadership brought others into these roles.

Piecing the narratives together, Blanche and Sandy van Ginkel were the first to advance the Expo theme—with a slightly different phrasing. The theme was selected by the organizers and further developed at the Montebello conference.