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Jericho Beach transformed into a world gathering 40 years ago

Last Updated May 29, 2016 at 7:32 pm PDT

The mural is by Bill Reid and was custom designed for the vintage miliary hangar. The hangar was demolished in 1980. (Courtesy Vancouver Sun files, via Habitat Forum Facebook)

UN conference took over Jericho Beach in June of 1976, to highlight the challenges faced by human settlements.

Exhibition halls, speeches and a food fair drew thousands to Jericho Beach 40 years ago.

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A lot of us remember Expo 86 – which happened 30 years ago, but do you remember Habitat Forum 76?

This Tuesday marks the anniversary of the opening of the two-week gathering at Jericho Beach. It was a UN conference meant to highlight the challenges faced by human settlements.

It was like Expo in many ways – with high-profile guests and colourful venues.

It managed to attract Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his family, Mother Teresa and ground-breaking anthropologist Margaret Mead.

Lindsay Brown, who is penning a book about the forum, says it transformed Jericho Beach.

“Beautiful banners, hand-milled wooden seating, it had an incredible food fair exhibiting food from different cultures, amazing exhibits and fires on the beach.”

American architect Buckminster Fuller built his own space for the occasion.

“It had a windmill, solar panels, a completely off-grid complex where they cooked and edited film. It was an incredible environment,” explains Brown.

Five seaplane hangars at Jericho were revamped into theatre and exhibition halls.

“It was the first time the world community ever met to discuss the growing challenges of urbanization, the accelerating human migration from rural to urban areas, urban problems including clean water, sanitation, poverty and homelessness, as well as the nascent field of sustainable urban design,” says Brown.

A driftwood sculpture at Jericho is pretty much all that’s left of the fair.

Brown’s book, Habitat ’76, will be released in the fall just in time for Habitat 3, happening in Quito, Ecuador.