Lights, Camera, Action!

The concrete towers of the New York State Pavilion are ready for restoration

Philip Johnson's trio of observation towers will be restored by 2021. (Via Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr)

The iconic trio of Observation Towers in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in eastern Queens is getting a long-overdue upgrade. Restoration work on the monolith structures at the New York State Pavilion has reportedly begun according to Untapped Cities

Built for the 1964 World’s Fair, it’s no secret that the Philip Johnson– and Richard Foster-designed project has suffered from serious neglect over the last several decades, but the push to restore it to its original glory is well underway. The Pavilion was added to the National Register of Historic Places in November 2009, and two years ago, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation announced its plans to fully restore the small site, making it a safe, walkable and event-centric destination for New Yorkers and tourists once again. 

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz first dedicated $14.5 million towards the project in 2014, and then the New York City Council and the mayor put aside more funds, bringing the total to $24.1 million. While several smaller albeit major renovation efforts on other parts of the Pavilion have occurred since 2015, including repainting the old steel framework on the Tent of Tomorrow, the project to rehabilitate the three Observation Towers has been five years in the making and physical indicators are finally starting to show. 

Image from Tent of Tomorrow grounds looking up at concrete Towers that form the New York State Pavilion

The entire site will be revamped in a capital plan by the Parks Department. (Via slgckgc/Flickr)

Set to take place over the next one-and-a-half years, work will include repairing all the deteriorating concrete found on the three, semi-stacked structures, as well as transitioning the finish on the plaza level floor from its current terrazzo-style linoleum to a methacrylate coating that will last longer. The external stairway on Tower 3—the tallest at 226 feet—and the internal stairs on all three stacked structures will be reconstructed. In addition, the waning suspension cables on each tower will be replaced and the electrical and drainage infrastructure in the basement of the site will be replaced and revamped respectively. 

One of the most visible changes set to come to the New York State Pavilion includes the restoration of the architectural lighting both on the towers and on the circular Tent next door. Bright lights will shine down from the bottoms of the observation platforms and columns of all four structures, ensuring the Pavilion’s presence on the night skyline of Queens for years to come. 

Construction is expected to wrap up in March 2021. 

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