Wednesday, 11 June 2014


The Canada Hall at the Canadian Museum of Civilization has the formidable task of fitting a thousand years of Canadian history into a 43,558 square foot exhibit.

One of the hardest parts must have been designing the transitions between one environmental reconstruction and the next. A transition has to feel continuous and not abrupt, but still convey a sense of change so that all the environments don't bleed into one. It also needs to save space wherever it can. The very best are so subtle that you don't even notice them.

My favourite transition is here, between the Ontario Street and the Canadian Prairies.

Did you notice what they did? I didn't until last year.

Take a look at the furniture store on the Ontario Street, and the railway car in the Prairies.

They're the same object! It's just decorated differently on each side.

You don't notice because you're looking at the CPR ticket office and the Govan train station. This interrupts your perception of the object. By the time you turn back around, you're in the next streetscape already, so you don't perceive its continuity.

And if you do happen to look at the side of the object, they've got you covered there too:

This panel on the driving of the last spike slows you down, once again distracting you from noticing the transition. (I especially like this view because it's Ontario on one side and Saskatchewan on the other.)

And by making one object stand for two, they save space too.

If you like this sort of thing, check out the post "The Awkward Transitions of Disneyland!" on the wonderfully detailed theme park blog Passport to Dreams Old & New. Theme parks were one of the reference points used by the Canada Hall's designers.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Pterosaurs in the Atrium

Speaking of the Canadian Museum of Nature's atrium: from 1999 to 2006, it was the home of two life-size sculptures of Pteranodon fighting over a fish.

I thought they were gone forever, but recently discovered that they now hang in a small, glass-walled building just behind the museum itself. I have no idea what this building is used for; does anybody know?

The pterosaurs were sculpted by Doug Watson (who also did the mammoth family in front of the museum) and Jean-Guy Auger. This page on Watson's website has a ton of information and photos of the sculpting process. You can even buy your own copies of the miniatures he made while planning it out!

I don't know why they didn't put these guys back in the atrium after the renovations. There's nothing in there now except the admissions desk.

It's also too bad the pterosaurs were never there at the same time as the totem poles. That would have looked awesome.