November 1, 2018 By TheNewYorkNews
New York City Panorama on Long-Term View Art at Queens Museum
The New York City Panorama is the jewel in the crown of the collection of the Queens Museum and a locus of memory for visitors from all over the globe. Conceived as a celebration of the City’s municipal infrastructure by urban mastermind and World’s Fair President Robert Moses for the 1964 Fair, the Panorama was built by a team of more than 100 people working for the great architectural model makers Raymond Lester & Associates over the course of three years.
When introduced in 1964, The New York City Panorama ’s special features included a continuous lighting cycle that went from dawn to dusk to night. In addition, an automated program of 3,172 colored lights highlighted the City’s municipal buildings – police precincts, firehouses, schools, hospitals, courthouses, libraries, public housing projects, as well as water, gas and electric stations. Black light fixtures mounted a few feet above the surface of the model illuminated trees and grounds of the city’s parks and the windows of Manhattan’s skyscrapers, all painted with phosphorescent paints that glowed green in the “night” cycle. Other special effects in the Panorama included moving airplanes that took off and landed at LaGuardia Airport every few minutes.
The original materials used to construct the Panorama itself are a sign of the times in which it was built – Formica panels and Urethane foam mounted on wood.
The buildings were constructed of wood, plastic and hand painted paper, and the bridges of etched brass.
Ongoing building additions are made by architectural model makers of laser cut/etched acrylic generated from computer aided designs.
The New York City Panorama was one of the most successful attractions at the ‘64 Fair with millions enjoying what was billed as an indoor helicopter tour of New York. The nine minute ride provided a “god’s eye” view of the complex topography of the five boroughs and their waterways, allowing sightseers to view the City at sea level and from a simulated 20,000 foot elevation. The “helicopters,” molded plastic tracked cars that encircled the model, also came with a guided tour, “The City of Opportunity,” read by broadcast legend Lowell Thomas which you can listen to here. The ride was a bargain at 10 cents per person while the design and construction of the entire Panorama cost $672,662.69 in 1964, the equivalent of approximately $5 million today.
Though the Queens Museum opened in 1972, only sporadic changes were made in the intervening years solely due to donations from architects and developers. During the 1980s boom in construction, models of the AT&T (Sony), Citicorp and other buildings were donated and placed on the model, though most public works and City projects were not included.
The New York City Panorama Adopt-a-Building
In the spring of 2009, the Museum launched its Adopt-a-Building program aimed at securing the future of the model while simultaneously bringing it up to date. For as little as $100, real estate on the Panorama can be “purchased,” with property owners receiving a deed in exchange for their donation. Hundreds have commemorated first date locations, elementary schools, first homes, and parents’ businesses by adopting a building. On a larger scale, the installation of new buildings on the Panorama – including Citi Field, Yankee Stadium, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, 27 buildings in Battery Park City – allow recent additions to the urban landscape to be reflected while funding the ongoing care, maintenance and educational programming that brings the magic of New York to thousands each year.
Major funding for the 2017 relighting of the Panorama of the City of New York was generously provided by Amazon Studios. Significant in-kind support provided by Knight Electrical Services Corp. Very special thanks to Battery Park City Authority, Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, Jack and Dorothy Kupferberg Family Foundation, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, New York Mets Foundation, Radii Inc., and the hundreds of donors to the Adopt A Building Program for their support of the ongoing care and maintenance of the Panorama.
Source and images: Queens Museum New York City Building Queens, NY 11368 © 2018 QUEENS MUSEUM