Drivers familiar with the L.I.E. are so accustomed to the sight of the New York State Pavilion in Flushing that the otherworldly oddity of its towering saucers and elliptical circus tent barely registers. It’s an ingrained part of the Queens skyline, a landmark New Yorkers recognize and hold dear, but rarely access. How many times have you driven by it? How many hours have you been stuck in traffic with nothing else to stare at? Have you ever been up close? Have you ever been inside? For most of us, the answer is probably no. A visit to Corona Park in Flushing is a good place to start and can easily be done on your own, but for a comprehensive behind-the-scene tour of the structure, be sure to visit during Open House New York Weekend (Oct. 15-16).

Or, just check out this two-minute video of the site:

History of the New York State Pavilion

The New York State Pavilion is one of the only remaining structures built for the 1964 World’s Fair. The Fair, organized by Robert Moses, was held in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens where the 1939 World’s Fair also took place. The New York Pavilion, designed by the renown modernist Philip Johnson, was one of the Fair’s main attractions and stood as a symbol of the Space Age and the promise of the future, two of the fair’s central themes. The pavilion included three structures – a theater, three observation towers and an open-air elliptical arena called the “Tent of Tomorrow.”

Over six million people visited the Pavilion during the World’s Fair. Visitors were awed at the spectacle of the Pavilion, drawn to its different composite parts. The theater or “Theaterama,” a steel-drum shaped performance space, served as venue for theater, dance and cultural programming. The “Tent of Tomorrow” boasted the world’s largest suspension roof, which measured 50,000-square feet and was supported by 16 100-foot columns. Three concrete towers formed a trifecta called the “Observation Towers,” the tallest of which was 226 feet and was the Fair’s highest point. Visitors could ride the “Sky Streak” elevators to take in views from the observation deck at the top. A 9,000-square foot map of the state of New York covered the floor of the Pavilion. The map company Rand McNally assisted in the production and design, which included meticulously rendered counties, towns, roads and Texaco stations across the state.

New York State Pavilion After the World’s Fair

Following the Fair, the Pavilion was briefly repurposed as a concert venue and roller skating rink. After surviving decades of decay, the city and grassroots organizations are partnering to revitalize the Pavilion and the surrounding public space. In March 2016, a design competition was held asking the public to imagine a future use for structure. A design by Sarah Wan and Aidan Doyle won first prize. They envisioned the Pavilion’s circular arena being repurposed as “the base to a suspended natural environment.” This hanging ecosystem would support plants native to New York and the northeastern United States. Walkways meandering through would allow visitors to explore and engage with the natural environment. The Pavilion is currently closed to the public, but if the competition’s plans are executed, the space would provide an interactive public green space that is equally forward looking as Johnson’s original designs.

About NYC Uncovered

StreetEasy has partnered with Open House New York to create “NYC Uncovered,” a nine-part video series that celebrates our city’s amazing architecture and urban design.  Over the next two weeks, in anticipation of the popular Open House New York Weekend (Oct. 15-16), we will be releasing the videos, each of which spotlights a single site of architectural, historic or planning significance. The videos provide a behind-the-scenes look at sites New Yorkers know and love, but otherwise might not have access to. We hope the videos enlighten, inspire and fuel your love of the complex, brilliant and ever-changing city we all call home.

Enjoy the videos and be sure to get out and explore the sites during the Open House New York Weekend!