The 1939 World’s Fair took place in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens. One of the main exhibits of the fair was “The World of Tomorrow,” which explored the idea of what cities would look like in the future. The design was based off of Corbusian design and theory, which was originally created as a redevelopment project for Paris, but could have been placed in any city. Another main factor of “The City of Tomorrow” was the multiple-lane highways that intersected all of the super blocks and high rises, which originated with the idea that cars were the future.
PM, August 28, 1940 (2007.15.82)
This idea of the perfect city was exhibited in an outer borough that is known for its most
diverse population in the world and range of economic income. The photographs and
artifacts exhibited in this online exhibition show the contradictory nature of the World’s
Fair, which is discussed in the PM newspaper artifact, in context of the lack of
architectural and industrial development and the economic and social conditions of the
people in Queens. These comparisons are all developed through the specific images of
Queens available through the archive, which are extremely limited.
Madoka Takagi, Long Island City, Queens, 1990 (2009.103.32)
Madoka Takagi, Howard Beach, Queens, 1990 (2009.103.17)
Madoka Takagi, LIRR Yard from Queens Blvd., 1990 (2009.103.27)
The images of Long Island City, Howard Beach, and the LIRR yard were all taken approximately fifty years after the World’s Fair. The idea of “The World of Tomorrow” is questioned through the lack of progress and urban development in the architectural images of Queens. These three photographs show a dilapidated building in a harbor of Long Island City, the rail yard which was developed long before 1990, and Howard Beach flooded. These images speak nothing to the idea of the super highways and highrises heralded during the World’s Fair.
Martin Munkacsi, [Woman in swimming costume, World’s Fair, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens, New York], 1939 (2007.110.2241)
Brenda Ann Kenneally, Rikers Island, Queens, NY, from the series Money Power Respect: Pictures of My Neighborhood, 2001 (2007.19.6)
Andrew Savulich, Teenagers arrested for knocking over 838 tombstones inside Queens Cemetery, 1991 (367.1994)
The same contradictory nature occurs through the depiction of people at the World’s
Fair in context of people living in Queens. The image of the woman in a bathing suit at
the World’s Fair contrasts with the images of Rikers Island, teenagers being arrested, and
working class families all depicted in the other photographs.
—Lynley Bernstein, ICP-Bard 2013