“There ought to be a university course in the pleasure of ruins,” wrote Philip Johnson in the foreword to Hilary Lewis’ fantastic book about his architecture. That pleasure, however, is mixed with pain when it comes to the current state of the New York State Pavilion that Johnson designed for the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens. Erected as an emblem of imagination and optimism for the future, the site is now in desperate need of preservation and reuse to save it from demolition by neglect.
“This thing has always been a bit of a mystery,” says Matthew Silva, co-founder of the preservation group People for the Pavilion. “It’s big and clearly important but nothing was ever happening with it.” That lack of activity drove Silva and fellow activist Salmaan Khan to learn more about the site and take action. In addition to doing work as preservationists, they have full-time careers – Silva is a schoolteacher, Khan the manager of facilities planning for the High Line – and Silva is also working on a documentary film about the project.