Last year marked the fiftieth and seventy-fifth anniversaries, respectively, of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. I wrote about these two fairs with regards to the 1939 introduction of television by RCA and the 1964 New York State Pavilion, designed by celebrated modern architect Phillip Johnson.
Starting today, June 29, the Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College is hosting a photographic exhibit on the “ignored” and “ridiculed” architecture of the World’s Fairs. The exhibition, Persuasive Images: Architecture of the 1939–40 & 1964–65 New York World’s Fairs, will run until July 27, and there’s an opening reception on July 9, two weeks after the exhibit opens.
Persuasive Images: Architecture of the 1939–40 & 1964–65 New York World’s Fairs
It’s been a while since I’ve been to a zoo, but in recent years, I’ve noticed a trend of zoos hosting evening events with music, food, and beer. Zoo Brews in Portland and Brews at the Zoo in Los Angeles are valiant efforts to lure childless adults to the zoo with adult beverages.
For one reason or another, I’ve failed to go to any of these events. But just about every nerdy synapse was activated when I learned of Project! World’s Fair night at the New York Hall of Science to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the World’s Fair in New York City. The building housing the science center was part of the World’s Fair campus, and they invite you to “leave the kids behind” and designate a driver.
Project! World’s Fair celebrates this advent with a fresh perspective on the buildings created as a result of the Fair and the subsequent museum and exhibits that have come to define NYSCI. We invite you to leave the kids behind and come out for a night illuminated by images of the past, present and future, inspired by the Fair, and experience the NYSCI of today against a backdrop of rockets and large-scale artist projections and installations on, in and around NYSCI’s building and exhibits. Participants will have the opportunity to interact with museum exhibits anew with a sample of a 50-year-old cocktail, beer or wine, as well as partake in workshops. Tickets include workshops, beer/wine and samples of cocktails inspired by the turn of the century.
The only time I’ve been to the Hall of Science was last October when they hosted the Empire Drive-In, part–art installation and part–drive in theater. I’m dying to know what fifty year-old cocktail they will be reviving, but like those other nights at the zoo, I will miss this night at the Hall of Science. I’ll be out of town.
Project! World’s Fair at the New York Hall of Science
A NBC television crew sets up outside of the RCA Pavilion at the New York City World’s Fair, 1939.
Last Tuesday, a bunch of people went to Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, the site of the 1964 World’s Fair to tour the Phillip Johnson–designed New York State Pavilion. The Pavilion was open to the public to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the 1964 World’s Fair. As with any free event in New York City, there was an hours-long line, and two people I know that went didn’t even get inside despite waiting over four hours.
Although it is still standing, the New York State Pavilion is in dire need of attention. Restoring or repairing it could cost as much as $75 million, and demolishing it would still cost around $14 million. These huge sums however have not deterred many groups from trying to restore the structure, a rare example of Googie architecture in New York City.
Some of the efforts to preserve the Pavilion include:
A statue representing the Freedom of the Press stands opposite a statue of George Washington, inaugurated 150 years earlier as the first president of the United States. (AP Photo.)
Speaking of presidents, President Franklin D. Roosevelt opened the Fair, the first such exposition in his home state.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt opens the 1939 World’s Fair. (AP Photo/John Lindsay)
The theme of the 1939 World’s Fair was the “World of Tomorrow.” Many of the corporate exhibits, such as General Motor’s Futurama, anticipated the role that consumerism would play in revolutionizing culture. The highways that would reshape the American landscape a decade later, for example, were on display as models at the Futurama exhibit.
Highways of the future. “Futurama” exhibit. New York City World’s Fair. (New York Public Library, Digital ID: 1674383.)
Now We Add Sight to Sound
To media scholars, the 1939’s World Fair is synonymous with the introduction of television. Although they didn’t invent it, RCA introduced television to the American public and, in very simple terms, explained its purpose.
RCA President, David Sarnoff, at the RCA Pavilion, New York City World’s Fair, 1939. (New York Public Library, Digital ID: 1681003.)
David Sarnoff, the president of RCA, clearly defined how television would work:
Now we add sight to sound.
Regardless of what television could do, RCA’s presentation of television introduced it with a clear purpose. RCA would guide television as an extension of radio. It would offer similar programming to what Americans heard on the radio in the 1930s, but with the addition of pictures. In the next decade, television would in effect supplant radio as the dominant entertainment medium, but it would still offer mostly entertainment programming sponsored by advertisers.