New York State Pavilion

New York State Pavilion

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I've been obsessed with all things related to the two New York World's Fairs ever since I first laid eyes on the Unisphere four years ago. At first glance it may seem as if there is very little left from either fair—most buildings were designed to be temporary—but there are still quite a few remnants if you know where to look. Of course you don't have to look to hard to find the Unisphere—you may have even seen it as you flew into or out of LaGuardia—or its neighbor, the New York State Pavilion.

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Designed by Philip Johnson in 1962, the NY State Pavilion comprises three separate parts: the Tent of Tomorrow, Theaterama and three observation towers. The Tent of Tomorrow and observation towers are technically in ruin (the Theaterama is home to the Queens Theatre) , but their fate isn't too dire (yet). Thanks to the New York State Pavilion Paint Project, it has received a new coat of paint, and I recently took an Untapped Cities tour of the usually-off-limits inside, led by Mitch Silverstein, co-founder of the Project. I'd been inside once before, during a World's Fair anniversary festival, but this tour was much more comprehensive.

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When it was built, the elliptical Tent of Tomorrow had the largest cable suspension roof in the world, a ceiling made of colorful tiles, and the floor was covered in a terrazzo map of New York State. The tiles are long gone and the terrazzo map is in bad shape —it's been covered for some time to prevent further damage, but they have a few sections on display.

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The Pavilion had another life in the 70s as a roller rink, but it closed when the structure started deteriorating. They filmed scenes for The Wiz inside of the Pavilion, and fairgoers were wowed by new technologies such as the microwave. I would give ANYthing to have been able to see the pavilion in all of its fair glory but it's pretty dreamy as a ruin—a state of being that apparently even Philip Johnson appreciated. He once wrote, "The New York State Pavilion at the 1964-65 World's Fair is now a ruin. In a way, the ruin is even more haunting than the original structure. There ought to be a university course in the pleasure of ruins."

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