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DETROIT -- a seemingly suspended building with a 10-story entrance canopy of soaring metal spars will house the General Motors global Futurama exhibit at the New York World's Fair of 1964-1965.

Frederic G. Donner, GM Chairman, said that General Motors hopes its 230,000-square-foot Futurama Building will add beauty and significance to the skyline of the Fair.

The building was designed to express the message of Futurama: the faith of General motors -- as a corporation doing business throughout the free world -- that mankind can make great future strides in every area of the globe if it exercises its full potential.

It will also extend an architectural invitation to Fair visitors to visit GM's ride into the world of tomorrow and multitude of other displays and products included in the seven acre General Motors exhibit.

Mr. Donner said that the GM World's Fair exhibit -- including design of its building -- "will represent the work of General motors people." H revealed that a task force of designers and show specialists headed by William L. Mitchell, GM Vice President in charge of Styling Staff, has been developing GM's World's Fair exhibit and building since 1960.

The General Motors executive in over-all charge of the planning, construction and operation of the GM World's Fair exhibit is Kenneth E. Staley, Vice President in charge of Distribution Staff.

The Futurama Building will be white and refreshing in the over-all panorama of the World's Fair. Despite its capacity to entertain tens of thousands of people, it will achieve through a combination of sculptured forms the illusion of being suspended above its landscaped site.

Behind the entrance canopy, the main portion of the building -- which will house the Futurama ride and many other futuristic and scientific exhibits -- will be long and sweeping. it will terminate in a dramatic, domed pavilion which will house current General Motors cars and other products.

During its construction and after the Fair opens, the General Motors Futurama Building will become especially familiar to thousands of motorists each day. With its entrance canopy facing northwest toward the center of the Transportation Section of the Fair, the Futurama Building will extend parallel to the south side of the Grand Central parkway. Its product pavilion will be at the interchange between the Grand Central Parkway and the Long island Expressway.

The domed pavilion of the Futurama Building will become a special landmark to passing motorists an to airline passengers flying over the site as well as to visitors on the Fair grounds. Revolving above its roof will be an eight-story sculptured indicator which will flash the time and temperature in large illuminated numerals.

The broad base of the canopy -- 236 feet wide -- will hover above a reflecting pool lying across the entrance of the building. The 39 slim metal spars comprising the canopy will rise to a height of 110 feet and will be visible for many miles.

A visitor approaching the building will move under the high protective tip of the canopy as he crosses the promenade over the pool. The canopy will sweep down to greet him at the entrance.

Once inside, he will discover that the building's exterior shape has disguised an immense amount of space. Slightly narrower than its canopy, the building will measure 200 feet in width and 680 feet in length. Its 44 foot high roofline will be deceptive because the building's total depth of 68 feet will extend down into the site itself.

The domed product pavilion into which the main portion flows will be 250 feet in diameter and 70 feet high. The time-temperature indicator will be 24 feet above the dome and 40 feet in diameter. The grade of the site will slope down as it reaches the pavilion, enhancing its illusion of floating. Surrounding it will be outdoor displays of heavy equipment produced by General Motors including trucks, busses, locomotives and earth moving equipment.

The Futurama Building itself will occupy nearly three acres of the 8 1/2 acre GM site. Surrounding it will be more than five acres of trees, grass, rock gardens and reflecting pools.

As well as creating an expressive and inviting architectural image, GM's designers have attempted to create in the Futurama Building the most functional exhibit structure ever devised.

The designers have kept in mind the immense popularity of the GM exhibit which entertained nearly 25 million people at the last World's Fair in 1939-1940. Daily they continue to change and refine their plans to make sure that the building will accommodate the greatest possible number of visitors in the utmost of comfort and safety.

One example of this planning is the Futurama ride. Remembering the long lines of visitors who waited to take the first Futurama ride, the designers have more than doubled the capacity of the new ride -- from 28,000 persons per day in 1939 to 70,000 persons per day in 1964 and 1965.

The GM Styling Staff has been assisted by many outside technical experts in the design of the Futurama Building and the over-all exhibit. Among them are Sol King, architect, and Albert Kahn Associated Architects and Engineers, Inc., both of Detroit.

Authorities in the humanities and sciences also have been and are continuing to be consulted in the design of the Futurama ride and the rest of GM's exhibit so that everything presented in futuristic portions of the exhibit will be a definite possibility, not merely a dream.

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FACT SHEET

GENERAL MOTORS FUTURAMA BUILDING
1964-65 New York World's Fair
Purpose: To house and give architectural expression to the global Futurama Exhibit General Motors will stage at the Fair.
Description:

There are three principal parts of the Futurama Building:

  1. A 10-story entrance canopy which will be visible for miles.
  2. A central segment - long and lean in appearance - which will house the Futurama ride accommodating over 70,000 persons a day plus many other adventures into the future in science and research.
  3. A domed product pavilion at the termination of the building which will display current General Motors cars and other products. Extending 24 feet above the domed pavilion will be a revolving time-temperature indicator 40 feet in diameter with illuminated numerals.

More than five acres of landscaping will surround the building. Outdoor product exhibits will include trucks, buses and off-highway equipment.

Dimensions:
  1. Although in design the white structure seems almost suspended, it will cover nearly three acres and have a total capacity of 230,000 square feet.
  2. The canopy will be 100 feet high, formed of 39 spars set in an arc 236 feet wide across the entrance.
  3. The building will be 680 feet long and 200 feet wide. At the roofline, it will be 44 feet above the ground but because one level will be dug into the site, the actual interior height will be 73 feet.
  4. The domed product pavilion will be 250 feet in diameter and 70 feet high.
Designers: The Futurama Building and the entire Futurama Exhibit have been created and designed by the GM Styling Staff.
GM Site Location: The Futurama Building will occupy 8.5 acres in the Transportation Section of the World's Fair at Flushing Meadow, New York. The building will lie parallel with the west side of Grand Central Parkway. Its entrance will face north and its other end will be the closest point of the Transportation Section of the Fair to the interchange between Grand Central Parkway and the Long Island Expressway. (This GM site is only a short distance from the GM site at the last New York World's Fair in 1939-40).
Construction: The building was announced and ground was broken simultaneously on May 8, 1962. Construction of the building is under the supervision of GM's Argonaut Realty Division. Architectural assistance is provided by Sol King, architect, and Albert Kahn Associated Architects and Engineers. General contractor is the Turner Construction Company of New York.
Status: The Futurama Building is expected to be completed by January 1, 1964, and at present construction is on schedule.


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WORLD'S FAIR -- What does it take to build the number one exhibition at the New York World's Fair?

Well, for one thing, it takes shower curtain rings -- 6,000 of them. And you put in 3,000,000 staples, 33,000 artificial plants and two tons of simulated snow flakes. You use up 5,800 gallons of glue and drive five-and-one-half-tons of nails.

More importantly, it requires a wealth of stylists, engineers, researchers and other experts to conceive and design a panoramic adventure into what the world of tomorrow may well be like. The passenger conveyance system, which has flawlessly carried more than 70,000 persons a day on a 15-minute ride through the jungle, the desert and city, past the surface of the moon and the antarctic and under the ocean, is in itself a design and engineering achievement.

On an 8 1/2 acre site within the Transportation Section of the fair General Motors has constructed a 230,000-sq.ft. exhibit which promises to outdo its Highways and Horizons display, the most popular attraction at the 1939-40 New York World's Fair.

Far broader than its predecessor which encompassed only the United States, GM's new Futurama offers visitors a trip around the world of the future if man builds with only the tools and techniques he has already perfected.

Depicted are new modes of living; transportation innovations; vehicles unlike any seen today; startling advances in scientific research; communications techniques which outspeed and outdistance any now in use; revolutionary industrial and agricultural processes.

To create this wondrous world, members of the GM Styling Staff, who designed the entire ride and other exhibits in the building, asked themselves three years ago - "What are man's needs? In what areas will he most probably strive to advance his technology, satisfy his scientific curiosity, improve his lot in life?"

With these areas determined, the Styling Staff designers developed a forecast of the courses man might follow. They then went to the experts for verification.

To present their findings, the GM stylists decided to create environmental scenes in which the innovations they foresaw could be shown advancing the fortune of all mankind. Viewers would take the "ride into tomorrow" in moving lounge chairs.

The scenes were constructed in a studio near Detroit. When complete, they were sawed into sections, trucked to the Flushing Meadow site of the fair, reassembled and installed along the third-of-a-mile Futurama ride track.

"This was a very stimulating project for all our people," said William L. Mitchell, GM vice president in charge of Styling Staff. "Many of them were rotated to the Futurama project from their normal tasks both to make specialized contributions and to let them do some real 'blue sky' designing. They found it easy -- and exciting -- on a project of this size to imagine that they were already living in this magnificent world of tomorrow that they visualized. That was possible because everything we show is founded on scientific fact."

A host of skills was called into play during the creation of the scenes. GM experts in advanced vehicular design, in lights and colors and textures, in modeling and building and painting, in theatrics and illusion and sound and in myriad other fields were called upon.

The ride itself, which calls for the loading and unloading of a person every second, was a particular problem. GM engineers solved it by inventing a new type of drive mechanism.

GM, which has staged automotive, scientific and other types of shows across the country for some 117 million visitors, had a wealth of talented and experienced individuals on hand. They were responsible not only for the ride but for the design of the building and two other attractions which it will house -- a display of the contributions science is making to the progress of mankind and an exhibition of GM automotive and other products.

The H. B. Stubbs Co. was called upon to do the actual construction of the scenery. At its studio in suburban Detroit, Stubbs craftsmen -- working from the Styling Staff's design -- built the scenes, numbered every section and then cut them into pieces which could be transported in a special fleet of 50 trailer trucks.

The sets were built upon wooden frames which were then covered with wire screening. "Mud," composed of powdered asbestos, water soluble glue, wheat paste and coloring -- with sodium benzoate added as a preservative much as it is used with prepared foods -- was sprayed on in several layers. The surface was then painted to represent varying types of terrain.

At the Futurama building other employees put the pieces back together, installing almost a mile of animated track upon which miniature vehicles, human figures and other objects travel and mounting some 900 stage lights. An additional 1,500 lights ranging from a Christmas tree bulb to a 500-watt quartz lamp were also used.

In constructing the scenes, which run for more than a quarter of a mile through two levels of the Futurama building, the Stubbs craftsmen used more than 10 acres of plywood, 225,000 feet of lumber, 120,000 carriage bolts, 135,000 wing nuts, 12,100 feet of aircraft cable, 135,000 sq. ft. of screen wire, 46,000 feet of paper rope, more than 5,000 gallons of fire-retardant paint and nearly 13 miles of electrical wiring.

The GM Styling Staff made in miniature some 1,900 vehicles, close to 1,300 model trees and more than 9,000 human figures.

The shower curtain rings? They'll be used to support some 30,000 sq. ft. of scenic backdrops painted by the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer scenic artists in Hollywood.

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FUTURAMA ATTENDANCE TO DATE (10/17/65)

 

Total attendance 29,002,186 Visitors
Total 1965 13,293,695 Visitors
Total 1964 15,680,923 Visitors
Total 1964-65 preopening previews 27,568 Visitors
Largest day October 16, 1965- 143,326 Visitors
Largest week 10/10 - 10/17, 1965- 758,034 Visitors
Largest month August, 1965- 2,847,816 Visitors
Daily average 80,000 Visitors
Per cent of fair paid admissions 60%

(Futurama has recorded largest attendance for an industrial exhibit at any world fair. Previous record - 24,230,000 - was set by GM "Highways and Horizons" exhibit at 1939-40 New York World's Fair.)

(Futurama attendance is recorded on electronic turnstiles) 

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Source: (all) GM Press Releases

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