The New York State Pavilion
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.
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."
In 2016, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and People for the Pavilion hosted the New York State Pavilion Ideas Competition. Sponsored by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, the competition sought to raise awareness across Queens and around the world of the New York State Pavilion and its possible future uses.
In April 2023, the New York City Parks Department completed the first phase of stabilization work on the structure. Engineering firm Silman and architecture firm Jan Hird Pokorny Associates led the $24-million publicly funded project, which included repairing damaged concrete as well as replacing the suspension cables and interior stairs on the three observation towers outside the circular Tent of Tomorrow. The department is in the planning stages of a second-phase restoration project that could ultimately allow the observation towers to open.
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