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A Proposed Air & Space Museum for Flushing Meadows

A Final Project Update

The story of the Proposed Air & Space Museum must, of course, begin with the concept for the museum itself. What follows is the original Concept Page done for the informational website set up for the project. The conceptual illustrations were done by Frankie Campione's CREATE architectural firm, with all costs for the illustrations and an accompanying audio-visual presentation (not included here) borne by Mr. Campione and his firm. The supporting reasons for the project's success were based on factual information.

Proposed Air & Space Museum at the New York State Pavilion
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens, New York
Artist's Rendering

Imagine a Springtime Sunday in the Near Tomorrow

Your day at the Air & Space Museum begins

You stroll with your family past the Unisphere, along the radial pathways and under the tall trees of the former World's Fair grounds in Queens, toward the Entrance Tower of the Air & Space Museum at the New York State Pavilion in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Here you'll board your Sky-Streak elevator to begin your day of discovery and adventure. The Pavilion, originally built to showcase the State's pride in playing host to the world at the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair, is once again a source of pride for New York's citizens.

What was once a dead and decaying eyesore is now a glittering glass-enclosed ellipse displaying the triumphs of American aeronautic and space history. This world-class Air & Space Museum has quickly become one of the city's favorite destinations for residents and out-of-town visitors alike. Your guidebook mentions that the the New York State Pavilion's Air & Space Museum became a reality thanks to a working partnership between private industry, civic-minded individuals and groups, the Parks & Recreation Department, the Borough of Queens and the City and State of New York. A lasting testament to what public foresight, civic pride and volunteerism can accomplish.

It seems like you're walking through the sky!

After being stalled for thirty-five years, Sky-Streak elevators once again whisk up the outer column of the tallest tower, stopping at the 120 foot high entrance level. Here a glass Sky-Bridge allows you to pass through a portal into the upper interior of the Museum, into the "Tent of Tomorrow."

Interior view of Proposed Air & Space Museum at the New York State Pavilion
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens, New York
(Sky-Bridge and Sky-Walk highlited in blue)
Interior View

A spiraling glass Sky-Walk ramp leads downward to the mezzanine level past suspended space capsules and historic aircraft. What once was a huge expanse of air, open to the elements, has become usable and dramatic exhibit space in a climate-controlled environment. A new roof of light-blue translucent panels provides a backdrop for the suspended exhibits. The view of the Unisphere and the Park in springtime, seen through glass-curtain walls, is breathtaking. It's as if you're walking through the sky! The restoration has retained renowned architect Philip Johnson's original design while creating a dramatic display area that is protected from the elements.

The ravages of time have destroyed the original terrazzo floor that once featured the map of the State of New York. In its place is a new terrazzo floor with the Constellations and Solar System set in deep blue against a dazzling white. You step from the escalator onto the sparkling floor into the Museum's main display area.

Exhibits at the ground and mezzanine levels highlight New York's rich history as an aeronautic center - home to many of the world's great airlines in the golden age of air travel. The Museum's location between the city's large airports seems a natural choice for this museum.

Here, a giant screen, a Jumbotron, displays films of historic space launches, film clips of aviation pioneers from America's rich aeronautic past and the live telecast of today's exciting Shuttle Launch destined for the International Space Station -- the same Station you just saw a working model of.

Tour a mock-up of a section of the Boeing 777, the world's most advanced airliner. Or learn about the aerodynamics that keep the giant double-decker Airbus A-380 aloft with its 880 passengers.

A corridor beckons to explore "Control Simulator." Take another Sky-Streak elevator ride to the second tallest tower to experience the workings of a simulated airport control tower as arriving and departing airliners glide into and out of nearby LaGuardia Airport. It is a dramatic hands-on finale to your spectacular museum experience. And before returning to earth again, take in a view of the Park and a quick stop for lunch in the top tower - highest vantage point on Long Island and home to "The Orbit Malt Shop" with a design right out of The Jetsons!

Perhaps you remember fondly that same view as a child. Of the wonderland of pavilions and "Space Age" structures at New York's last great World's Fair in 1964 or 1965, grateful that this legacy of the Fair was preserved so that your children can experience the same sense of wonder and awe at the exhibits of today's Space Age.

The Reality of Today

Images from long ago: at the Fair in 1964/1965. A gift that was squandered.
At the Fair At the Fair - night scene

Dreams for tomorrow must overcome the reality of today

The New York State Pavilion was a $12 million ($72 million in today's dollars) gift from the taxpayers of the State of New York to the Borough of Queens and the Parks Department following the close of the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair. The gift has been squandered. The donors, the City and the Parks Department of that time had intended for the Pavilion to become an exhibit space for art and made renovations to the structure to prepare it for that use. The additional money spent to renovate was wasted. It has never been used as an exhibit space as intended. Today, the structure is abandoned except as a storage shed for the Queens Theater in the Park and the occasional movie set. The multi-million dollar terrazzo map of the State is a broken irreparable shambles. Chain-link and padlocks protect the ruined entrances. The curious stand outside looking up and shake their heads in disgust.

Left: The famed Texaco map of New York State is an irreparable shambles. Top Right: The roofless pavilion continues to deteriorate at an alarming rate. Bottom Right: Derelict escalator to a crumbling mezzanine.

Pavilion profile

Derlecit escalator

Over the past thirty-five years, it has been allowed to deteriorate to the point that it is now unsafe. Only immediate renovations to stabilize the structure will prevent it from certain catastrophic collapse. The New York State Pavilion at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park has come to the end of its life unless a permanent use for it can be found. We believe the Air & Space Museum concept is the most innovative and realistic use for the pavilion.

Location and structure are perfectly suited to an Air & Space Museum

The proximity of the structure to New York's great airports makes Flushing Meadows-Corona Park a natural location for such a museum. The structure sits within sight of LaGuardia Airport and the towers of the pavilion work to enhance an aviation concept. Until now, the fact that the pavilion is primarily a huge expanse of air has been one of the greatest deterrents to developing a renovation plan. The Air & Space Museum concept makes use of that expanse to suspend aircraft and related items. It is an ideal exhibit space in that regard - perhaps the only use for such a large expanse of openness.

Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is already New York's "Park of Museums," home to the Queens Museum of Art and the New York Hall of Science. However, Flushing Meadows' distance from mid-town Manhattan makes them often overlooked attractions for visitors to New York. The National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C. consistently ranks among that city's most popular draws for visitors. There is no reason to believe that a world-class museum of that order in New York would not have the same draw. Those who come to spend time at one museum can spend time at the other museums or enjoy the Park's other attractions. And the Hall of Science, the soon-to-be restored Rocket Park and the Unisphere only enhance the science and space themes of an Air & Space Museum.

Could there be any other location in the city so ideally suited for an aeronautic/space related facility? Could there be any other building so ideally suited to such a project?

New York State Pavilion has world-wide fame

The pavilion is the work of world-renowned architect Philip Johnson. It is of a style of architecture that is endangered world-wide. Because it has served as a backdrop for various films, both commercial and institutional, it has instant world-wide recognition. It has served as a City, Queens and Long Island landmark for decades. It would be missed should it disappear in a pile of rubble. The popularity of the Fair it was constructed for continues to grow as those who attended as children look back fondly to the event as an incredible childhood experience. And those same children have grown up watching this legacy of the Fair crumble away year after year. We trust those same children will care enough today to make this a lasting legacy for their children and grandchildren to enjoy in the near tomorrow.

Left: Rust comes through the latest coat of paint on the crown. It is eating away at the sections holding the old roof support cables in place. Soon they will begin to snap. Right: Towers are a hazard with stairs that have disintegrated from years of exposure to bird droppings. Parks Department has already removed the concrete underside of the platforms fearing a possible failure.
Crown closeup Towers through empty ceiling

Demolition must not be the final solution. The Air & Space Museum concept is an exciting, viable solution for this important building.

Charles A. Aybar, PhD, Scottsdale, AZ
Frankie Campione, AIA, Principal, CREATE Architecture Planning & Design, New York, NY

Photograph source of World's Fair images are a United Airlines promotional slideshow for the Fair c. 1964 and not the property of CREATE or the Architect.

  Air & Space Museum at the New York State Pavilion Information Center

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Planning & Design, New York, NY

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