Preservation Magazine, Summer 2023

An Important Step for Philip Johnson's New York State Pavilion

For New Yorkers who love the daring curves of 1960s architecture, there’s no better hometown icon than the city-owned New York State Pavilion at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens. Now they have a new reason to celebrate: The first phase of stabilization work on the structure was completed in April. 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.

Night Shot of New York State Pavilion, 2023

photo by: NYC Parks/Daniel Avila

The New York State Pavilion's observation towers (at left) have been stabilized and the circular Tent of Tomorrow has been re-illuminated.

“The stabilization work is really critical to the long-term survival of the towers,” says Sybil Young, historic preservation officer for the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. The National Trust has advocated saving the pavilion, co-presenting an ideas competition for creative ways to reuse it in 2016. Designed by architect Philip Johnson and constructed for the 1964–65 World’s Fair, the complex has been shuttered for decades (except for the former Theaterama, which is now the Queens Theatre).

A lighting revamp heightens its visibility. The team restored the original blue globe lighting on the towers and added illumination to underscore the dynamic design. Young says her department is in the planning stages of a second-phase restoration project that could ultimately allow the observation towers to open “on a very limited basis.”

Headshot Meghan Drueding

Meghan Drueding is the executive editor of Preservation magazine. She has a weakness for Midcentury Modernism, walkable cities, and coffee-table books about architecture and design.

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