Restoration of Philip Johnson's NY State Pavilion finally set to start


Michele Racioppi


Docomomo US


Saved, Newsletter September 2019, New York
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The New York State Pavilion, designed by Philip Johnson for the 1964 World's Fair, which Ada Louise Huxtable referred to as a "carnival with class," seems finally on the brink of restoration. It has been a long road, but a testament to the power of both local and national advocacy.

In 2008, it was included on the World Monuments Fund Watch List due to its deteriorated condition. It was subsequently listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009, but the situation remained dire. In 2014, the People for the Pavilion mobilized to raise awareness of the historic value of the New York State Pavilion and its potential to serve as a vibrant and functional public space. Since then, numerous public officials have announced their support, it was declared a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the film Modern Ruins was released to tell the story of the site, an "Ideas Competition" was held, and the tent got a new coat of paint (in "American Cheese Yellow").

Although excitement and public support ran high, gathering enough funding to begin the expensive restoration project was harder to come by (ironically, part of the reason the building was never demolished is because that was also cost prohibitive). In 2017, New York City dedicated $14.25 million towards "structural conservation work on the observation towers, waterproofing of the tower bases, improvements to the electrical infrastructure and architectural lighting of the observation towers and the Tent of Tomorrow." However, it later became clear this would not be enough to comlete the project so it was put on hold until the remaining funds could be secured. Finally, earlier this month, it was announced that the project was fully funded, the total amount coming to $24.097 million, and, according to the NYC Parks website, construction is scheduled to start this month, however according to, which spoke with a representative from the Parks Department, "construction is expected to begin next month though there is no exact date at this time."

Additionally, in early 2019, it was announced that the site would a receive a $16.5 million FEMA grant to repair electrical damage sustained under Hurricane Sandy and for future flood protection measures. 

Docomomo US and its local New York/Tri-State chapter have supported the preservation efforts and continue to follow the story closely.

"Restoration on World’s Fair Observation Towers Begins Soon in Flushing Meadows,", September 9, 2019.
"A relic of the 1964 World’s Fair will finally get restored in Queens,", September 9, 2019.

View the NYC Parks presentation which details the restoration work.