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Thread: New York State Pavilion (1964 World's Fair) - by Philip Johnson and Richard Foster

  1. #1
    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    Default New York State Pavilion (1964 World's Fair) - by Philip Johnson and Richard Foster



    July 8, 2004

    What to do with the crumbling 250-foot towers left over from the 1964-65 World's Fair in Flushing Meadows, Queens? The city is open to suggestions.

    Rather than demolish the eerie ruins of the New York State Pavilion, the Parks Department is soliciting ideas that would justify spending the millions needed to reverse decades of neglect.

    "We'd love to bring it back to life," said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. "But it would have to be something that could produce revenue."

    Tours of the pavilion will be given this morning to interested developers, who are being asked to submit proposals for the site by Aug. 11.

    Designed by architect Philip Johnson, the towers — which gained new fame as whimsical alien flying saucers in the 1997 movie "Men in Black" — in its '60s heyday housed observation decks, a snack bar and a private lounge used by Gov. Rockefeller to schmooze dignitaries at the fair.

    The centerpiece of the pavilion was the Tent of Tomorrow, a 12-story exposition space with a multi-colored Plexiglas roof and a terrazzo floor bearing a giant map of New York state.

    After hosting concerts by the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Who and others in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Tent of Tomorrow later was used as a roller rink, then as storage for Dumpsters, and finally as a parking lot.

    Although engineers have deemed the concrete and steel towers stable, it's now more Pompeii than pavilion.

    The wheels and containers have worn away the map, leaving it barely visible in some places and non-existent in others.

    The escalators, elevators and stairways are rusted and rotting away.

    Aside from "Men in Black," the pavilion featured prominently in the 1978 film "The Wiz" as the spot from which Diana Ross made her entrance to Oz. More recently it has been used as a set for rap videos.

    Those who remember the pavilion in its glory days blame the city for its sorry state.

    "The city allowed this glorious building to deteriorate, and it's a disgrace," Flushing Meadows historian David Oats.

    "In the 1960s, I saw the Grateful Dead under the Tent of Tomorrow, and they never sounded better. The sad thing is that now it may be too late to save it."

    And while most people who walk by the pavilion, or drive by it on the Grand Central Parkway and Long Island Expressway, are unaware of its history, the structure remains an unmistakable landmark.

    Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc.

  2. #2
    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    copyright © galinsky 1998-2004.

    For more info on the Pavilion and Photos:

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    CREATE Architecture & Planning

    Try to right click.

  4. #4
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    Definitely include a restaurant or café, preferably on the tallest tower.

    Oooh, if there were one time in New York's history that I could have been alive, the two World's Fairs would be at the top of my list. My grandfather (on my dad's side, the one from Kentucky) got to go to the 1964 one for business. My grandmother tells me that she was so jealous

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    The large round pavillion area used to have orange and blue fiberglass roofing.

  6. #6


    I have vivid memories of the terrazzo map, not from the World's Fair, from a Led Zeppelin concert.

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  9. #9
    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gulcrapek
    CREATE Architecture & Planning

    Try to right click.
    I love this idea for the Pavilion...A space museum. You could have an observatory on top to look at the stars or something.

    I wonder if those elevators are working when the power is turn on.

  10. #10


    You can find a whole batch of proposals here

    Just skim through the pages and you'll find some really cool ones.

    I wonder if those elevators are working when the power is turn on.
    I dont think so: The escalators, elevators and stairways are rusted and rotting away.

  11. #11


    Tent of Tomorrow looks like yesterday

    By James Murdock

    July 9, 2004

    A small group of architects and developers interested in renovating the New York State Pavilion toured the building yesterday with officials from the city Parks Department.

    The tour marked the first step in the city's effort to find a new use for the pavilion, better known as the Tent of Tomorrow, which has steadily deteriorated since it was built for the 1964-65 World's Fair in Flushing Meadow-Corona Park. Parks officials will accept letters of interest through Aug. 11, after which point they will evaluate the suggestions and decide whether to issue a more formal request for proposals.

    "We'd like to find a way to preserve and possibly adaptively reuse this structure," said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, "and if we can find a way to do that without spending a lot of the city's nickels, that's even better."

    The Tent of Tomorrow was hailed as an architectural wonder at the time of the World's Fair. Its UFO-like observation towers, the tallest of which rises 200 feet, are familiar to drivers on the Grand Central Parkway — and to people who saw the 1997 movie "Men in Black." The pavilion was last used as a roller rink, in the 1970s.

    Benepe said he would prefer to find a new use for the Tent of Tomorrow that can generate revenue for the city, but that he is also leaving the door open to the possibility that NYC2012, New York's Olympics bid committee, will use the building if New York wins the 2012 Summer Games.

    NYC2012 is proposing to locate a rowing venue and slalom canoeing facility elsewhere in Flushing Meadow-Corona Park, said spokesman Lazaro Benitez. NYC2012 evaluates buildings located near its competition venues, Benitez added, but it's too early to speculate about whether it can find a use for the Tent of Tomorrow.

    Among those who are ready to suggest a use is Frank Campione, principal of Manhattan-based CREATE Architecture Planning & Design. Campione first contacted the city in 2001 seeking permission to stabilize the Tent of Tomorrow and convert it into an aerospace museum. Parks officials were lukewarm to his proposal, though, which Benepe cited as one reason his office is seeking other suggestions.

    Campione is in the process of establishing a non-profit group, tentatively named Save New York State Pavilion Organization, that would be authorized to raise money from corporations and philanthropists.

    "We've been playing by all the rules and want to work with Parks," said Campione, who was among the group of about 10 that toured the building. "We're just waiting for the green light."

    In addition to the non-profit, Campione is assembling an extensive development team that includes many of the Tent of Tomorrow's builders. Among the firms already on board is Philip Johnson Alan Ritchie Architects, of Manhattan. Philip Johnson, who coincidentally celebrated his 98th birthday yesterday, was the pavilion's architect.

    "Something needs to be done with the pavilion," said Johnson's business partner, Alan Ritchie. "It's a crime to let it deteriorate the way it has."

    James Murdock is a freelance writer.

    Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Bob's Avatar
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    Default Restore Restore Restore

    What to do with the Pavilion? Restore Restore Restore. This wonderful structure has unfortunately become a sad symbol of New York State, in general.

    To be sure, New York is a great state, but one that in so many ways has gone to seed. Take a look at its "parkways," littered with trash. Take a look at its bridges, rusted and crumbling from years of neglect. Drive the Cross Bronx, and take your life in your hands from the potholes and steel plates in the road. Drive the (functionally obsolete) Belt Parkway, and spend 2 hours to go a mere 10 miles.

    The New York State Pavilion should become, once again, the New York State Pavilion, a crown jewel showcasing the best of what New York has to offer. A full restoration, including an updated terrazo map, is in order. Will this co$t plenty? Yes, but so will the restoration of the great state in which the pavilion resides. We have to start somewhere.

  13. #13


    July 17, 2004

    New Life and New Mission for a 1964 World's Fair Relic


    The planned new shape of the Queens Theater in the Park, foreground; a new entry pavilion will be under the towers.

    Philip Johnson's steel and concrete fantasia in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, designed as the New York State Pavilion for the 1964-65 World's Fair, has been crumbling for decades. Now it is finally getting some attention.

    Adrian Benepe, New York City's parks commissioner, said his department had begun soliciting ideas from groups interested in revovating the pavilion. If there are enough expressions of interest, he said, the department will issue a formal request for proposals.

    At the same time, the Queens Theater in the Park — which produces performances geared to the borough's immigrant communities — is planning to build an 8,000-square-foot addition to its space, a small section of the pavilion that was called the Theaterama during the World's Fair. That section has been maintained while the rest of the pavilion, including the huge "Tent of Tomorrow" and cluster of round observation towers, continues to fall apart.

    The addition will consist of a 75-seat cabaret and a new entry hall with an inverted-dome ceiling, a shape that one of its architects, Sara Caples of Caples Jefferson, said would recall the "va-voom architecture" of Johnson's pavilion. The city has allocated $5.2 million for the addition and hopes to break ground this fall, the cultural affairs commissioner, Kate D. Levin, said. The opening is planned for late next year.

    When completed, Ms. Caples said, the new entry hall will join the original Theaterama, the observation towers, and the tent to be "a fourth geometric figure in this wonderful composition of Philip Johnson's."

    But the shiny new addition will also call attention to the blighted condition of the tent, which appears to be on the verge of collapse. Sixteen 100-foot-high concrete towers once supported a multicolored canopy above a football field-size map of New York State. The canopy is gone, and the map is now a forest of weeds that have cracked the state's 62 counties.

    As recently as 2001, the city's parks commissioner at the time, Henry J. Stern, said he thought the tent structure was useless and should be torn down.

    But Mr. Benepe said the pavilion as a whole was worth preserving because it is a remnant of the fair and was designed by "an important architect."

    Mr. Johnson, who turned 98 last week, was not available for comment and has not seen the plans for the theater addition, said his design partner, Alan Ritchie. But Mr. Johnson once said that he cringed every time he passed the crumbling pavilion on the way to the airport.

    One group, Mr. Benepe said, has proposed creating a New York City sports hall of fame at the pavilion. Another, which includes the Manhattan architect Frankie Campione, has proposed turning it into an aerospace museum. Mr. Campione said he was concerned that the theater addition would detract from Mr. Johnson's composition. Worse, he said, construction could damage the existing building, which, because it was not intended to be permanent, was constructed on wooden pilings.

    But Ms. Caples said that her team, which includes Lee/Timchula Architects of Manhattan and the structural engineer Stanley Goldstein, was aware of the wooden pilings and had performed what she called "obsessive" engineering studies to make sure the pavilion did not topple as a result of the construction.

    The proposed theater addition is only one of several significant building projects in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. A radical alteration to the Queens Museum, by the Los Angeles architect Eric Owen Moss, is in the planning stages. And a 55,000-square-foot addition to the Hall of Science, by Polshek Partnership Architects of Manhattan, is nearing completion.

    Ms. Caples said she believed that she and her partner, Everardo Jefferson, were respecting the Johnson building by adding to it. "Repurposing cultural buildings and bringing them into our time," she said, "is a stronger way of keeping these beloved institutions part of the life of the city than letting them fall into disuse."

    The remains of the New York State Pavilion for the 1964-65 World's Fair, in Queens.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  14. #14
    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    The New York State Pavilion ready to take off to the sky:

  15. #15


    November 11, 2006
    bout New York

    We Have Seen the Future, and It Is Rusting

    The rusting towers of the New York State Pavilion, a remnant of the 1964 World's Fair


    Once there were elevators gliding up the sides of the towers to reveal a city unfolding; now they are rusted in mid-rise. Once there were stairwells winding within those towers; now they are rotted through. The call for a better tomorrow, for “Peace Through Understanding,” is answered by the flutter and coo of its hidden inhabitants.

    Seeing again the New York State Pavilion, the massive space-age remnant of the 1964 World’s Fair that looms just beyond the Grand Central Parkway, seeing it in all its premature decrepitude, you cannot help but wonder: If this was built to evoke the future, then may the gods have mercy on us all.

    The city’s neglect of this gift bequeathed to it in 1967 has long been a prominent embarrassment, the elephant in the room that is the borough of Queens.

    But the more years that go by, the more the structure becomes New York’s own “colossal wreck,” begging, as Shelley wrote in “Ozymandias,” that we look upon it and despair.

    During the summer the red warning light on the top of the highest tower, some 226 feet up, went out. It had to be quickly replaced, per federal regulations; La Guardia Airport is close by, after all. But the burnout of a small light presented a large problem for the pavilion’s custodian, the Department of Parks and Recreation.

    With the elevators now stuck like barnacles to the sides of the towers, and with the stairwells rotted beyond use, parks officials had to hire a company that specializes in rappelling up buildings to conduct inspections and repairs. Which means, then, that someone climbed up the futuristic edifice by rope to change that light bulb.

    At the same time, beyond the “DANGER — KEEP OUT” signs, in the rotunda of the pavilion, an archaeological dig of sorts has been taking place in urban ruins less than 50 years old.

    IT might be hard to imagine now, but back then the pavilion’s central feature was a detailed, 9,000-square-foot map of New York State, made of 567 terrazzo mosaic panels laid across the rotunda’s floor. Billed as the largest map in the world, it allowed you to stroll from Montauk Point to that small place in Cattaraugus County — Ischua, wasn’t it? — where you had an aunt.

    Soon after taking custody, the city turned this meticulous map into a roller rink. A few years later, city workers disassembled the glorious multicolored ceiling by hammering out the heavy panels, sending them crashing to the floor.

    On and on the willful neglect continued, abetted by fiscal crises, until, finally, you could visit the ruined map and slip the I from Ischua into your pocket.

    Graduate students from the University of Pennsylvania are now collecting and cataloging the loose pieces of terrazzo and plastic, and are planning to restore some of the map for an exhibition next year. The thrust of the exhibition, presumably: This is what it looked like, way back then — in 1964.

    The World’s Fair rose from the ash heap of Queens, immortalized in Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” to become a bazaar of international promise. When it was over, its master builder, Robert Moses, presented the fairgrounds to the city. His words, part warning, part plea, now haunt: “Guard it well.”

    The city promptly began to guard the pavilion poorly, so that by the time the current parks administration came into office, in 2001, it had become a rusting monument to civic failure that would cost millions to restore.

    The Parks Department prefers to emphasize the $422 million that the city and private organizations have invested in recent years in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, which includes the fairgrounds and the Unisphere. This money is dedicated to serving the public best, a parks spokesman says, as with a new $60 million skating rink and indoor pool.

    As for the pavilion, the spokesman, Warner Johnston, says the department solicited ideas from nonprofit organizations a couple of years ago but received no viable recommendations. Now it plans to solicit bids for what he called “a full stability and renovation report.”

    “It’s all phony,” spits David Oats. “It’s been a frustrating — literally! — 40 years now.”

    Nearly 45 years ago he was a boy living on the park’s fringe, watching and resenting the construction of the World’s Fair.

    One day he was caught where he shouldn’t have been and was all but presented like a caught mouse at the feet of Moses. Moses took pity, assured the boy that the fair would be wonderful, gave him sketches of the promise to be and became a kind of mentor.

    For 40 years, as the president of a civic association dedicated to the park and the legacy of the World’s Fair, Mr. Oats has seen too many studies and plans go nowhere. So little has been done — just as Moses privately predicted to him — that he suspects the city would rather demolish the structure and be done with it.

    Mr. Oats, 57, stands before the pavilion, where the rusting elevator cables quiver in the wind. He points out the three observation decks. One was for the public, he says, one was for a restaurant, and one was for Governor Rockefeller to entertain dignitaries. He speaks like a grieving relative.

    Of course, it was Mr. Oats who notified the authorities when the light went out.


    Photos: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

    Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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