Philip Johnson’s New York State Pavilion Getting the LED Light Treatment

March 10, 2015

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Last Friday, we journeyed to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park for the Panorama Challenge at the Queens Museum. When the evening of trivia was over, we walked out into the park to find the Unisphere and the Museum, both World’s Fair relics, glowing. But in the distance, Philip Johnson‘s iconic New York State Pavilion was barely visible. That’s about to change, though, as electricians and preservationists have been testing new ways to illuminate the “modern ruin” for the first time in decades, according to the Daily News.

The update comes thanks to a wave of public support to restore the icon, as well as a renewed interest in its architectural merit and the history of the 1964-65 World’s Fair. As we wrote over the summer, the pavilion’s restoration task force secured $5.8 million for repairs, $4.2 million of which came from Mayor de Blasio. Now, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz has pledged to get the site illuminated by the end of the year. “We will restore this national treasure into a visible icon befitting ‘The World’s Borough’ for generations of families and visitors to enjoy,” she said.

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New York State Pavilion via Wiki Commons via Matthew Silva

Philip Johnson designed the Pavilion for the 1964-65 World’s Fair. It includes three adjoining observation deck towers, standing at 60 feet, 150 feet, and 226 feet, as well as the Tent of Tomorrow, a 350-foot by 250-foot structure supported by 16 100-foot columns and housing a huge terrazzo map of New York State (which was vandalized in July). During the fair, it was “covered by a kaleidoscope of colored glass and dotted with lights,” but has since remained dark except for a single red light used by airplanes arriving at LaGuardia and an art exhibit 15 years ago during which it was briefly bathed in blue light.

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Via Wiki Commons

Since the city-owned relics were ignored for so long, the lighting project is not as simple as one may think. The stairways inside the towers have deteriorated, so the group is looking for ways to illuminate them from the ground or the roof of the adjacent Queens Theatre. Currently, electricians are experimenting with how to incorporate blue, green, and red LED lights. One idea is to have the Pavilion change colors à la the Empire State Building.

[Via NYDN]



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