What Would Philip Johnson Think?

Giant greenhouse is the winning idea in New York State Pavilion competition

Architecture Awards East
(COURTESY IDAN DOYLE AND SARAH WAN / NATIONAL TRUST FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION)
(COURTESY IDAN DOYLE AND SARAH WAN / NATIONAL TRUST FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION)

The New York State Pavilion in Queens could one day witness a radical redesign as the winners of an ideas competition to give the pavilion a new breath of life are announced.

Originally designed by Philip Johnson and located in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the pavilion is a fine example of architecture from the atomic age. Once part of the 1964 World’s Fair, it is now the only structure still standing from the event.

As covered by AN earlier this year, a competition organized by The National Trust for Historic Preservation, People for the Pavilion, and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz was held to generate ideas on how to rejuvenate the pavilion. The competition garnered more than 250 submissions: Deborah Berke, founding partner of Deborah Berke Partners and new dean of the Yale Architecture School, Paul Goldberger, and other design critics were on hand to judge the entries.

(COURTESY IDAN DOYLE AND SARAH WAN / NATIONAL TRUST FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION)

(Courtesy Idan Doyle and Sarah Wan / National Trust for Historic Preservation)

Claiming a prize of $3,000, Seattle-based architects Sarah Wan and Aidan Doyle, were crowned as winners for their “Hanging Meadows” proposal. In what appears to be a gigantic, curvaceous greenhouse containing a variety of greenery of all sizes, Wan and Doyle’s design will never be realized. The competition, no matter how strong the winning design may be, was only created to showcase the pavilion’s potential. According to theNew York City Department of Parks and Recreation, the structure could cost more than $52 million to do up, though the city officials have allocated $12.9 million for it.

“It’s an iconic landmark,” Wan said of Johnson’s pavilion. “We’re always interested in new ideas and how older buildings in disuse can become new revitalized structures.”

Runner up: "Civic Hub" by Javier Salinas. (Courtesy Javier Salinas / National Trust for Historic Preservation)

Runner up: “Civic Hub” by Javier Salinas. Salinas was awarded $1,000 for his submission. (Courtesy Javier Salinas / National Trust for Historic Preservation)

Of the proposals submitted, a select group, including the runners up and third place entries, as well as the winners of the Queens residents–only submissions will be on show at the nearby Queens Museum. The exhibition starts today and runs through August 28.



Submissions so far mostly depict colorful scenes that refer back to the pavilion’s original red and yellow coloring. These include the “Queens Pavilion Cheeseburger Museum,” “Trampoline Castle,” “The Funland of Art” (that promises to be “the most fun your kids will ever have”), and the “Pavilion for the People.”

Architect Cesar Juarez and artist Alida Rose Delaney won the Queens-only submission. The two conceived of a performance space and stadium seating set in a public park. This was achieved through the removal of the original low-rise pavilion walls that trace its perimeter to facilitate the structures merging with its environmental context. Speaking in the Wall Street Journal, Juarez cited his childhood fascination with the pavilion. “There’s a lot of mystery and intrigue to it,” he said.

Meanwhile, Stephanie Meeks, president and chief executive of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, mentioned how further development on the structure could one day take place when a “strong and innovative vision of the pavilion’s future role in the community” is established. “We certainly hope it will encourage designers and visitors alike to think about the historic assets in their own neighborhoods that, with a little love and ingenuity, can continue to play a vibrant role in our lives,” she added.

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