Tuesday, July 21, 2015

New York World's Fair

Hooray for the 1964 New York World's Fair! 

You can't have too many pictures of the "Tower of the Four Winds", situated in front of Walt Disney's "It's a Small World"! The composition is kind of neat, with half of the tower reaching up toward the sky, dramatic clouds in the distance. Somehow the photographer resisted the urge to place the tower right in the middle. I just love it. 

On many occasions, Rolly Crump has stated that he hated the way the finished tower looked, because engineers made some of the supports thicker (in case of high winds), supposedly ruining the light, airy appearance that he desired. 

Well, Rolly, I'm here to tell you that it looks wonderful anyway!

One of the more distinctive buildings at the Fair (strong words!) was the IBM pavilions giant "egg" - some say it was meant to resemble the type ball from "Selectric" typewriters). The real novelty was the way powerful hydraulics lifted grandstands (the "People Wall") holding some 500 guests up inside the ball. What an amazing sensation that must have been!

There they could watch a presentation created by Ray and Charles Eames (wow), using 14 slide projectors. It was called "The Information Machine". 

To the right is the Equitable Life Assurance pavilion, with its famous (and depressing) 44 foot-long electronic display that showed the rapidly increasing population of the planet Earth.

Insid the DuPot pavilion, two theaters showed a musical revue entitled "The Wonderful World of Chemistry". After that show, guests were entertained by "Chemical Comedy" ("Live action is combined with tricks on film") and "Molecular Magic" in which extraordinary properties of man-made materials were displayed. According to the souvenir guide, one of those demonstrations involved a performer holding a piece of red-hot metal that had been dipped in a "thin chemical film". Impressive!


Anonymous said...

What are the words on the front of the building to the right of the egg?

Tom said...

"The Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States"

Love seeing the Luminaires there in that first shot! Is that H155? Too bad there are so few of them left...

Chuck said...

Anonymous, it says "The Equitable Life Insurance Society of the United States."

Major, that's a great photo of the Tower of the Four Winds. Comparing it with this still from "Tomorrowland" (https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/e7/df/04/e7df042bd297af19923552f3d5a4a913.jpg), you can see that Disney did a pretty good job of recreating the set from the movie when they decided to build "it's a small world" for real at the World's Fair. Crump's physical representation of the CGI tower is almost spot-on, and I'd have had to go back to the theater multiple times before I noticed all of the minor details that they got wrong on the actual building.

I feel like I've seen that egg somewhere before, but can't quite put my finger on it...


Nanook said...


Evidently a ⅛"-thick piece of "Tipersul" (fibrous potassium titanate) was used to protect the hand of the 'performer' at the DuPont exhibit from the heat of an 1,800º bolt. Then, the bolt was dropped on a piece of wood, which promptly caught on fire. Impressive. (I wonder how many hands were used...)

Thanks, Major.

Melissa said...

I mean, Crump knows what is talking about of course, but to the untrained eye the Tower still looks pretty damn light and airy.

Anonymous said...

Tower of the Four Winds was a beautiful,fun kinetic sculpture, with so many moving parts spinning and moving in the wind- it was a joy to behold! I'm surprised Disney never re-created it at one of it's theme parks. Dennis
Levittown,Long Island, NY

Anonymous said...

Major, beautiful pictures today. Very nice.

Funny to read Crump's comment on the engineers; typical architect blames structural for ruining the design. This is an argument as old as the profession.

Melissa is right, of course. The Tower is brilliant, even if more heavy-set than the designer wanted.

I wonder what the Tower would look like if designed to California's current codes. Much less elegant, I'm sure, and the howl would be even louder.

I am constantly amazed by how light and airy structures can be in other states without earthquake rules in their building codes.


Major Pepperidge said...

Anonymous, if you click on the thumbnails you can view the photos much larger, which should help with small details like that. Just in case you didn’t know…

Tom, I don’t know, it kind of looks like H154 to me! I love those luminaires… if I had any skill at all, it would be awesome to make a scaled-down version (since the originals were so huge). Wouldn’t that be an awesome project?

Chuck, that still from “Tomorrowland” really made me want to see the movie! Until I saw the reviews. And yes, I commented on our pal Mothra back in January… great minds think alike!

Nanook, well I was pretty sure they didn’t use their bare hands! Besides, who doesn’t have pieces of fibrous potassium titanate sitting around? I know I do.

Melissa, I totally understand that Rolly was displeased with the final look of the tower, but then again, it would have been a disaster if high winds had caused the thing to collapse.

Dennis, yes, you’d almost think that they would have reproduced the tower at one of the other parks. Again, if I had any skills in building stuff, it would be so cool to build a large model of it!

JG, I hadn’t considered that there might be even more “beefing up” of the tower if it was built today, especially in California. Maybe modern materials could allow airiness while retaining structural strength? And I'm sure Rolly was critical as an artist, he certainly is not an architect (as far as I know)!

Tom said...

Major - I have a life goal of putting together scaled down Luminaires, at either 4 or 6 inches per square. I'm thinking with the proliferation of 3D printers out there it should be a simple matter to produce the framework. The panels are easy to come by, the light panels can be LED... I think there's a market for these.

Melissa said...

The Tower of the Four Winds would have looked great and fit in thematically at EPCOT.

Melissa said...

The Tower of the Four Winds would have looked great and fit in thematically at EPCOT.

Melissa said...

The Tower of the Four Winds would have looked great and fit in thematically at EPCOT.