Every time I go home, I pick a few new places to check out. Otherwise, I just get lost in my own nostalgia. On our last trip back to NYC, Queens was the “tourist” destination, specifically the Queens Museum of Art and the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the site of the 1964 New York World’s Fair. The most famous bit of evidence of the World’s Fair is, of course, the Unisphere, a Space Age-era monument to global interdependence.
The structure was designed by Cornell-educated civil engineer and landscape architect Gilmore D. Clarke. Go Big Red! At 140 feet tall, weighing 700,000 pounds, and with a diameter of 120 feet, this is the largest globe in the world and was constructed in 162 days. It’s surrounded by a reflecting pool and fountain, with the effect of the Earth floating in space, which we didn’t get to witness.
Three orbit rings encircle the globe, seemingly floating without any supports. Viewed up close, the continents exhibit some topographic-type dimension.
To see this iconic structure being built, check out the wacky and entertaining promotional film The Unisphere: Biggest World on Earth.
As a bonus, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park contains some other World’s Fair relics, notably the Philip Johnson-designed New York State Pavilion, which includes the skeleton of the Tent of Tomorrow, seen on the left below. The observation towers on the right were the fair’s tallest structures:
The tent originally sported a multi-colored fiberglass roof, the world’s biggest suspension roof at the time. After the World’s Fair, it was used as a concert venue and then as a skating rink. The roof was destroyed during the 1970s.
For me, the saddest aspect of this structure is the floor — a huge Rand McNally map of New York State made out of terrazzo. I got as close as I could, but I couldn’t actually see any part of the half-acre map:
After years of neglect, the map is in poor shape, but there are efforts to raise awareness and hopefully to conserve it. Looking at this historical photo, it’s easy to understand why this was one of the fair’s most popular attractions:
I hope that the map will be saved, but what are the chances that we’ll ever be able to walk on it? Probably nil. For more images of the NYS Pavilion, check out a 360-degree panorama and New York Architecture.