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UNISPHERE: Miracle in the Meadow

Jeffrey Syken

The tradition of erecting a centerpiece for a Universal Exposition (a.k.a. World’s Fair) dates back to 1889. In that centennial year of the French Revolution, the Universalle Exposition des 1889 was held in Paris. A public competition for a 300-meter tower led to the erection of the Eiffel Tower, much to the dismay of the cultural elite of Paris – but everyone else seemed to like it, ordinary Parisians and exposition visitors included.

There would be Ferris Wheels, Towers, Arches and even a “Space Needle” at future world’s fairs, but none captured the imagination of the public and spirit of the times as did the Trylon and Perisphere – centerpiece of the 1939/40 New York World’s Fair held in the Flushing Meadow (of Great Gatsby fame). Nobody was really sure what it was supposed to represent and locals affectionately referred to it as: the ball and bat. Somehow though, it seemed to affirm the future full of hope that The World of Tomorrow promised fair visitors.

A generation later, a group of New York City businessman, recalling fond memories of the 1939/40 New York World’s Fair, recruited a much older (and less popular) Robert Moses to create, once again, a New York World’s Fair in 1964 – the 25th Anniversary of the earlier fair, on the same grounds in Flushing Meadow for their children and grandchildren to enjoy. As fair president, Moses’ first priority was to find a suitable centerpiece – akin to the Trylon and Perisphere - that would represent the fair around the world. It was a tough act to follow, but with the beautiful design of landscape architect Gilmore Clarke and the engineering/construction expertise (and generosity) of the United States Steel Company, Unisphere – centerpiece of the 1964/65 New York World’s Fair, was born and remains as a permanent gift to the ages.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

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