New York State Pavilion (1964-1965 World's Fair) 
Flushing Meadows 
Corona Park 
Queens NY 

Philip Johnson & Richard Foster Architects (Zion & Breen Associates, Landscape Architects) 1964
(1982 Interior renovation Johnson/Burgee Architects) 

Commissioned by the state of New York for the 1964 World's Fair in New York City (Queens), the New York State Pavilion was the largest in the Fair, and is one of the few structures from the Fair to remain standing today. The Pavilion was dedicated the day after the New York State Theater, and came at a time when Johnson's break from strict Miesean vocabulary was becoming evident. 

The New York State Pavilion consists of three main components, each with its own purpose, rather than being one single building intended for multiple uses. The largest structure in the complex is an elliptical plaza measuring 350 feet by 250 feet. This space is surrounded by 16 steel columns (each one hundred feet high), which once held up a colorful canopy that covered the plaza underneath. 


An oversized map of the state of New York, which is made up of 567 mosaic terrazzo panels weighing about 400 lbs. each, largely covers its floor. The map is said to have cost one million dollars at the time, and displays the locations of all Texaco gas stations in the state of New York. Perhaps the most impressive structures in the Pavilion (and the most recognizable) are the three observation towers measuring 90, 185 and 250 feet tall. These observation towers were reached by capsule-shaped elevators (which can still be seen on the sides of the towers), and were the tallest structures at the Fair. Lastly, a circular theater, 100-foot diameter, known as the Circarama sits along the towers. The theater was used to show a 360-degree film about the state of New York during the fair.

Johnson commissioned Peter Agostini, John Chamberlain, Robert Indiana, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Alexander Lieberman, Robert Malloy, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist and Andy Warhol to install paintings and murals on the outside of the Circarama. At the time these artists were relatively unknown to the masses, and in many cases were still considered controversial.

Today, the New York State Pavilion is perhaps more impressive than it was during the World's Fair. It stands as a piece of architectural ephemera; a relic that somehow continues to stand decades after its intended use has passed. This aspect of the Pavilion is of particular interest, especially if one takes into account Johnson's well-known passion for architectural ruins. In his foreword to "The Architecture of Philip Johnson" he writes:

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.

Efforts have been made to save the Pavilion by using it once again, and at least one of them has been successful. The Queens Theatre took over the circular Circarama adjacent to the towers in 1994 and continues to operate there. As for the rest of the Pavilion, many uses have been proposed, including an air and space museum but no concrete plans have been made for the decaying structure yet. As a result, the towers and the large elliptical plaza that was once covered remain unused and padlocked (in the day of my visit, a worker was kind enough to let me enter briefly). The map of the state of New York, which was open to the public until sometime in the 1980's, is almost completely destroyed in some areas, since it is now unprotected from the elements (as are badly rusted escalators and handrails) and lays literally in pieces. Inside, large red stripes that were painted on the walls can still be seen, along with round planters/benches that surrounded the map. As it stands today, the Pavilion is a beautiful structure, perhaps one of my favorites in all of New York City. The Pavilion is a fantastic mix of architectural optimism from another time, with the financial realities of a city like New York.

Bellon 2004


How to visit

The New York State Pavilion is located within Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, New York. The easiest way to see visit is by taking the 7 train to the "Willets Point-Shea Stadium" stop in Queens. Walk south and you will see the three towers. The Pavilion is less than 10 minutes by foot from the station, near the Unisphere. During the nighttime, the park can be a bit unsafe, particularly if you don't know your way around too well. 

There is a small parking lot adjacent to the Pavilion (a New York City rarity) so that driving is also a possibility. Directions are available at

Note that due to its proximity to Shea Stadium, the USTA National Tennis Center and La Guardia Airport, traffic can be unusually bad at certain times, even by New York standards.

Books and other web sites

Click the book title to view and to order direct from


The architecture of Philip Johnson
Philip Johnson, Richard Payne (Photographer), Hilary Lewis, Stephen Fox

The authorized and up-to-date account of Philip Johnson's wide-ranging and long-spanning architectural career

For more information visit the official web site of Philip Johnson, Alan Ritchie Architects at

Visit the Queens Theatre web site at

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