Holly McWhorter

New Documentary Sheds Light on Philip Johnson’s Forgotten 1964 World’s Fair New York State Pavilion

by , 06/06/13

ny state pavilion, 1964 world's fair, adaptive reuse, nyc landmarks, nyc landmark preservation, flushing meadows corona park, matthew silva, nyc architecture, nyc design

Have you ever noticed those big, spaceship-looking towers hovering over Flushing Meadow Park in Queens, and wondered what they were? Or maybe you remember them from their little cameo in the movie Men in Black, but didn’t know they were real, and standing tall right in New York City. The towers, together with the the massive open-sided building adjacent to them, are part of the New York State Pavilion - a mid-century modern masterpiece designed by legendary architect Philip Johnson. The whole complex was built for the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, where it still stands today in a dangerous state of decay. But Matthew Silva, a teacher from Long Island, is hard at work on a documentary that will hopefully raise awareness about this valuable landmark – and help get it restored to its former glory.



ny state pavilion, 1964 world's fair, adaptive reuse, nyc landmarks, nyc landmark preservation, flushing meadows corona park, matthew silva, nyc architecture, nyc design

The pavilion hosted a wide range of commercial displays during the fair, all highlighting the finest industrial wonders New York State had to offer at that time. But since the colorful glass tiles were removed from its cable-suspension roof (the biggest in the world!) in the early 1970s, the once-glorious structure has been exposed to the elements–leaving it with cracked concrete and steel beams rusted so badly that the building is not only dilapidated, but probably structurally unsound as well.

Just after the fair, when other structures were being torn down, the city decided to keep the pavilion as a tourist attraction (like the Eiffel Tower, which was built for the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris), but no mayor since then has ever taken steps to actually do it. Restoration could involve not only making it structurally sound and more attractive (possibly bringing back its original bright colors), but recreating the original floor of the pavilion, which was covered by a gigantic, in-laid Terrazzo road map of the state. The two observation towers (and hopefully their access elevators, too) could also be restored, once again granting unbeatable views of the entire city.

Luckily, a growing community of fans has been rallying to have it preserved, and Silva’s documentary, which will feature interviews with some of the pavilion’s most prominent advocates from the last 50 years, stands to be major pillar in the movement. He’s gathering support via a GoFundMe campaign to help him pay for travel and additional production costs, and you can see a preview of what he’s shot so far at his Vimeo page for the film.

+ Matt Silva’s Blog about the Film

Photos courtesy of Matthew Silva, Flickr: cynicalad, edogisdog and joe shlabotnik, and worldsfaircommunity.org

Click here to find out more!

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