August 4, 2017
When Canada wanted a standout pavilion for Expo 67, and a modern new science museum for Centennial Year, it handed a lot of the design work to a young man just reaching his thirties.
It was no gamble. By the early 1960s, John Arnold had already built a reputation as a designer with artistic flair who also understood the nuts and bolts of construction and electronics.
And in later years, every time you stepped into the Crazy Kitchen at the Canada Science and Technology Museum, you walked through his ideas.
But Ottawa holds far more of his work than that.
Arnold, who died recently at 83, was the head of design when the museum was created — for the whole museum, not just the tilted Kitchen. He was also a senior member of the design team for the Canadian pavilion at Expo, the famous “upside-down” Katimavik.
He went on to be an architectural design consultant for the Alberta’s Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology and the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, but switched careers to restore private historic homes in central Ottawa, winning multiple awards for his designs. He became a director of Heritage Ottawa.
In Ottawa, he is best known for the original design of the Science and Technology Museum.
“There was that look, the distinctive Sixties design look, that simple, elegant geometric look — sleek, but also his and the museum’s twist at that time was interactive, engaging, multi-sensory. And that was innovative in North America and the world for that time,” says David Pantalony, curator of physical sciences and medicine at the museum.