I am issuing a disclaimer. I am writing this blog from the point of view of a 13-year-old junior-high-schooler (a Queens native and life-long resident of New York City—grown old), not as the buildings editor of ENR. As the buildings editor, I do not express opinions about architecture.
Disclaimers aside, here I go. I think the New York State Pavilion of the 1964-65 World's Fair is an eyesore. A hulk. A monstosity. An embarrassment. I thought it was an eyesore in 1964, long before I had ever heard of architect Philip Johnson.
With all due respect to the late modernist(?), the structure is not only ugly, it did not function well from day one—at least not from my very personal experience.
In 1964, I was a member of a citywide junior-high-school orchestra. We gave a performance "in" the open-air pavilion. It was a beautiful day. But it was the worst performance experience I have ever had. It was very hot under the "big tent." Worse, it was very noisy. As we were playing, the planes on their landing path to the nearby LaGuardia Airport drowned out the music—every couple of minutes. It was ridiculous to even try to compete with their decibel levels. We could not hear each other, nor could anyone hear us. It was really ridiculous. Embarrassing. Ludicrous.
Aside from my own personal experience, which did turn me against the space, I could never understand the structure. It was plain ugly to me. Just plain ugly.
As the years passed and I passed the eyesore many times (as I traveled to and fro on the Long Island Expressway), I thought, who in their right mind would ever approve such a project? I understood the Unisphere. I didn't "get" the NYS Pavilion.
Fast forward to my job at ENR. Somewhere along the way, I learned that the revered Philip Johnson was the architect of the monstrosity that stood rusting, in none of its glory, alongside the LIE (Trust me, I'm no fan of that highway, either). Don't get me wrong, Philip Johnson was a really clever guy. Many embrace his architecture.
But I don't get it. The NYS Pavilion is ugly. But of late, thanks to the 50th anniversary of the fair, the newspapers are all over the idea of restoring the pavilion. People, including one well-known architecture critic, are calling it a "historic landmark of modern architecture" and a "historic treasure."
I've read that it will cost $14 million to tear down the monstrosity and $53 million—at minimum—to restore it. I suggest implosion. Immediately. Let's not waste any more time or energy (or money) on this. There are many more important issues to solve.
Really--this is a case of the emperor's new clothes. Trash the pavilion, I say. Don't throw good money after bad. The 60s, and all of its architecture of ugly, are long gone!!! Thank goodness.