Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

1964… it seems millenia ago. The American Empire had reached its zenith and the few things that were starting to go wrong seemed like minor glitches although the massive humiliation of defeat in Vietnam was soon to define the limit of US power.

In that year New York hosted a World Fair at Queens in what is now one of New York’s great parks, the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

All the pavilions were contracted to be demolished within 90 days of the end of the two year Fair but one, the New York State Pavilion, designed by the great architect Phillip Johnson, had been built more permanently than the others. It continued briefly as an art gallery, then a skating rink, but when maintenance issues closed the rink the City destroyed the roof and the structure was abandoned to dereliction.

The greatness of the original concept can still be seen in what now looks like the ruins of a masterpiece.

Its multi colour glass roof, floor that was a gigantic terrazo map of New York, and three outlying viewing pavilions presented a Jetsons’ view of a future utopia, a future that we now know will never come.

Despite a viable proposal for adaptive reuse as an Air and Space Museum the vandalised skeleton of the building continues to moulder as it has for most of its neglected life.

The beauty of the building was not enough to save it and the future it symbolised turned out very differently. Nonetheless it is hard not to feel that over time it has served another purpose, as a mournful reminder of imperial hubris.

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