Architect Philip Johnson designed the New York State Pavilion for the 1964-65 World’s Fair, which drew an estimated 51 million visitors to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park for a celebration of culture, technology, and “man's achievement on a shrinking globe in an expanding universe.” A skyline-defining feature of the borough of Queens, the Pavilion is a monumental concrete and steel structure combining a theater, three observation towers, and a 100-foot high, open-air elliptical ring.
Dubbed the “Tent of Tomorrow,” the Pavilion’s main exhibition space dazzled and delighted fairgoers with the world’s largest suspension roof and a 567-panel terrazzo road map of the Empire State. While a vast majority of the structures constructed for the World’s Fair were either demolished or relocated, the Pavilion remained in active use for years as a community roller rink and concert venue. However, by 1976, the tent’s iconic roof was declared unstable and removed, leaving the ornate map exposed to the elements and the Pavilion’s future in question.
Even in its current deteriorated state, the Pavilion remains a focal point of a beautiful, 1,255-acre urban landscape that is Queens' largest green space and one of New York City's flagship parks. Owned by the city and administered by the Parks Department, the Pavilion is structurally stable, but needs critical repairs and restoration after years of disuse. Recent studies have shown that it would cost approximately $14 million to demolish the Pavilion, $40 million to fully repair and preserve it, and up to $72 million to reopen it to accommodate a program of full reuse.
Held at a time of great cultural and technological transformation, the 1964-65 World’s Fair – the largest ever hosted in the United States – embodied the Space Age optimism of mid-century America. That sentiment pervaded the architecture and design of the fair, which featured flying saucer shapes, vast cantilevers, and towering concrete forms.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the New York State Pavilion is a remarkable relic not only of World’s Fair architecture, but also of this fascinating era in American history. Commissioned by Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Philip Johnson was instructed to make the state’s representative building the largest and tallest at the fair. Once it opened, architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable called it a "runaway success...a sophisticated frivolity...seriously and beautifully constructed. This is carnival with class."
The work of a master architect and a symbol of a captivating cultural moment, the New York State Pavilion is the only element remaining from the 1964-65 World’s Fair that has not yet been restored or adapted.
- Raise local and national awareness of the significance of the Pavilion.
- Advocate for the restoration and reuse of the Pavilion as an asset to the local community and visitors to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
- Bring preservation expertise and resources to the reuse efforts.
Ways To Help
Contact Mayor de Blasio and thank him for making the New York State Pavilion a continued priority.
Donate to our campaign to save the New York State Pavilion.
Written by Jason Clement, Team Member
What an anniversary it has been!
For the past six months, Queens has commemorated the 1964-65 World's Fair, which brought tens of millions of people to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park exactly 50 years ago. This weekend, that celebration wrapped up with tours of the New York State Pavilion, a concert, and a sprawling scavenger hunt almost half a century to the day the history-making event shut its gates.
Braving the chilly fall weather, a small team from the National Trust canvassed the entire festival area — clipboards and Pavilion swag in hand. Since announcing the New York Station Pavilion as a National Treasure on April 22 (the day the World's Fair began in 1964), we have collected over 5,000 signatures on our petition calling for Mayor Bill de Blasio to continue making the restoration of the Pavilion a priority. This past weekend, we added several hundred more names to that tally, and we could not be more thrilled with the outpouring of local support.
If you haven't already, please join our campaign by signing today.
Excerpt from The New York Times:
It is the largest lake in New York City, a historic salt marsh that was flooded when Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was fashioned from a former ash dump to host the 1939 World’s Fair.
But while years of effort and millions of dollars have gone toward cleaning up the city’s major waterways, like the Hudson and Bronx Rivers, city officials and parks advocates have paid less attention to Meadow Lake and the four dozen other lakes and ponds scattered across the parkland.
Written by Grant Stevens, Team Member
It’s an exciting time for the New York State Pavilion! Just last week, it was announced that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, and the New York City Council have allocated $5.8 million towards the New York State Pavilion to begin restoration. Though the exact use of this money has not yet been determined, it will most likely involve electrical and structural improvements to the iconic towers. You can catch the full story in these New York Times and New York Daily News articles.
This is a significant first step towards saving the Pavilion and we encourage you to thank Mayor de Blasio for his support and ask that he continue to make the rehabilitation of the Pavilion a priority of his administration. We are very excited about this development, but is it crucial to remember that while $5.8 million is a strong start, the National Trust is advocating that this landmark be fully restored and reused, a solution that will cost roughly $72 million in total.
We also want to offer a note of congratulation to our local partner, People for the Pavilion, who received an honorary Social Media in Travel and Tourism (SMITTY) Award from Travel + Leisure Magazine. They also have a major event coming up on August 1, 2014: Pavilion Day with the Mets.
Check back in again soon for more Pavilion updates!
Excerpt from The Guardian
"Fifty years on... there are calls to breathe new life into the collapsing corpse of the New York State Pavilion, with Kellberg's book and a documentary film by Matthew Silva on the way. "There is growing support to see the structure revived," says Salmaan Khan of People for the Pavilion, set up to campaign for its revival. Melinda Katz, Queens' borough president, has formed a taskforce dedicated to preserving the pavilion, although funds are the big question. It will cost around $40m (£24m) just to stabilise the structure. Still, there is no danger of it being torn down: it is on the National Register for Historic Places, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation recently declared it a national treasure."