A project to make three-dimensional images of the New York State Pavilion for posterity is underway this week at Flushing Meadows Park.
Lori Walters, a post-World War II historian at the University of Central Florida, who has emotional ties to the fairgrounds, says a 3-D laser scanner will provide an exact representation of the 50-year-old pavilion in case of a disaster or just to show future generations what it looks like in 2014.
“We are doing it as a public service and will provide data to the Parks Department and put it online at chronoleap.com,” Walters said.
She and her Florida crew of two, Alex Zelenin, a tech artist, and Michelle Adams from the UCF history department, were joined Monday by Justin Barton, chief technology advocate for CyArk in Oakland, Calif. Barton’s nonprofit group has scanned 130 historic sites for posterity, including Mount Rushmore recently, and has provided some financial support for the pavilion project.
The photographing was expected to take three days, if the weather cooperates. Each scan takes 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the height of the structure.
Monday’s work was to document the exterior of the circular Tent of Tomorrow. The second day was for shooting higher elevations of the exterior and the final day to cover the interior of the tent. If weather and time permits, the group may scan the three observation towers.
Once back in Florida, Zelenin will edit the photographs together, creating a 3-D virtual tour of the facility. It should take about a month to complete.
“I think this will be a perfect record for architects on what the pavilion looks like now,” Walters said. “The pavilion is reflective of its time and very whimsical, with a space-age feel.”
Born on Long Island after the fair was over, she remembers as a young child driving with her parents on the Long Island Expressway to visit family in Astoria and being intrigued by the colored panels on the Tent of Tomorrow’s roof. “I have a small personal connection with the pavilion,” she said, “when it was in its technicolor glory.”
Walters and her family soon moved to Florida. The Plexiglas panels were removed for safety by the city in the-mid-1970s and deterioration of the terrazzo floor followed. The pavilion was left to rot.
Walters is encouraged by the new attitude favoring preserving the pavilion and repurposing it. “I want to see the pavilion saved,” she said. “It’s just as valuable architecture as in the Gilded Age.”
ChronoLeap, founded by Walters, explores online the use of 3D virtual environments as an educational tool, using the buildings of the 1964 World’s Fair. As part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the fair, Walters also created a virtual tour of the fairgrounds as it looked then and how it looks now. Visitors can see it at the Queens Museum.
Walters’ next project is finding out if the fair’s Underground World Home still exists. See that story elsewhere in this edition or at qchron.com.