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Celebrating the Inspired 1960’s Architecture of NYC World’s Fair

At Turett Collaborative Architects, I  am celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of 1964 New York City World’s Fair – an inspired example of 1960s architecture.

The 1964 fair’s theme was “Peace Through Understanding”, dedicated to “Man’s Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe.”   For many reasons, this Fair instilled in me a noble vision about modern living, the creative process and the power of architecture.

As a young accordion player (that’s me, Wayne Turett, in the center, under the “Guy” in Guy Lombardo and  with white socks), I began to hone in on my creative energies.

And yes, that’s also me transporting my accordion and my sister to the performance.

The exhibits excited my imagination of what the ‘smart’ home and office of future might deliver. The Fair was a glorious demonstration of a powerful school of architecture.

Many of the pavilions were built in a style that was heavily influenced by “Googie (yep, Googie, not Google) architecture“. This was a manifestation of the then modern technology – jets, the Space Age and the Atomic age. Some pavilions were explicitly shaped like the product they were promoting, such as the tire shaped Ferris wheel, or the more abstract replication of IBMs electric typewriter ball.

1960s Architecture Fusion

Today,  most of these pavilions are gone. The few that are remaining are in disrepair and other examples of this bold, but perhaps brutal, era of architectural design are slated for destruction. Whatever the fate may be,  the Fair and its architecture inspired the imagination of many of my generation.

The World’s Fair architecture expressed a new-found freedom of form enabled by modern building materials, such as  reinforced concrete, tempered glass and stainless steel. I find great beauty and elegance in blending the themes of this design era with historic NYC buildings of the 1900 century and the technology of the 21 century.  This fusion defines much of our work.

And here is what I am thinking.  The 1964 World’s Fair was a second chapter. In the same location, the 1939 World’s Fair was the first.  It offered my parent’s generation a look at the power of emerging designs, technology and architecture.  I am thinking it’s time for a third New York City World’s Fair to inspire the future before us. Perhaps though, the time for the grand fairs is over.  The pace of innovation may simply be too fast for us to plan and build a physical representation of a  grand future that is not outdated before it completed.


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