Queens’ iconic New York State Pavilion will be illuminated every night

April 18, 2023

Photos courtesy of NYC Parks / Daniel Avila

Queens’ famous New York State Pavilion will now illuminate the sky every night. The city’s Parks Department this week announced the completion of the first phase of the restoration of Flushing Meadow-Corona Park’s iconic NYS Pavilion. As part of the $24 million restoration, the city installed new dynamic architectural lighting on the Philip Johnson-designed Tent of Tomorrow and Towers, which will be lit every night, with varying schedules for holidays and special events.

Designed by Philip Johnson for the 1964 World’s Fair, the NYS Pavilion is a concrete and steel structure, consisting of three observation towers, an open-air elliptical ring, and a theater.

The Tent of Tomorrow measures 350 feet by 250 feet with sixteen 100-foot columns suspending a 50,000-square-foot roof with multi-colored panels. The tent also held three towers, measuring 60 feet, 150 feet, and 226 feet, respectively.

The two shorter towers held cafeterias for the World’s Fair and the tallest held an observation deck. The Pavilion also included the “Theaterama,” a space that exhibited pop art by renowned artists Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, among others. The space was used as the Queens Playhouse from 1972 until 1985.

“Perhaps the most iconic landmark in our parks system, the NYS Pavilion in Flushing Meadows Corona Park is a reminder of our city’s historic past, and a beacon towards the future,” NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue said. “As we light the Towers and Tent of Tomorrow ‘Parks Green’ in celebration of the completion of this stabilization and lighting work, we look forward to further renovations on the Pavilion to help ensure this landmark continues to inspire and delight visitors for decades to come.”

In addition to the dynamic lighting, the Pavilion received several structural and electrical improvements. Deteriorating suspension cables on all levels of the towers and Pavilion were replaced and the tower stairs were repaired to allow access for maintenance.

All of the original 1960s conduits were replaced along with the installation of new electrical equipment for a planned NYPD Mobile Command Center. The concrete towers and historic piers were replaced as well, and the tower’s blue globe lighting was restored to its original form.

In December 2018, the Pavilion received a $16.5 million FEMA grant for repairs after Hurricane Sandy. The funding would be used to replace electrical units at the Pavilion’s World’s Fair Park and to create new flood protection systems to prevent damage from future storms.

After years of plans to restore the Pavilion, work broke ground on the project in November 2019. The work was expected to be completed in March 2021, as 6sqft previously reported.

Work on the next phase of the restoration is still in its planning stages, but is expected to further bolster the structure’s stability and eventually allow for guided tours of the towers in the future, according to Untapped New York.

“This is a major milestone in the effort to once again make the NYS Flushing Meadows Corona Park Pavilion a popular public space,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr., said.

“Along with brightening our skies, the lighting of the Pavilion will brighten the hearts of Queens residents both young and old, especially those who have fond memories of attending the 1964 World’s Fair. Thanks to this important restoration work, new generations of residents and visitors will be able to make memories when they visit this iconic and brilliantly illuminated structure.”

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All photos courtesy of NYC Parks / Daniel Avila

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