UNISPHERE

Symbol of the New York World's Fair 1964/1965 is this 12-story-high stainless steel model of the earth designed, built and presented to the Fair by United States Steel. Dedicated to "Peace through Understanding," the Unisphere will remain on its site when the Fair is over, as a permanent gift to the City of New York for the improved Flushing Meadow Park that will be created on the fairgrounds. It is located at the Fountain of the Continents, near the center of the Fair. Seen from the edge of the pool, it shows the world as it looks from 6,000 miles in space.

Viewed from the observation towers of the New York State Pavilion, the Unisphere and surrounding fountains were a dramatic theme structure indeed. The ubiquitous globe has become the symbol for Queens County and has been featured in countless advertisements and films. (CD #27 Set 146 #5)


 

The Unisphere and the Fountain of the Continents were impressive from any angle. This view from August 1965 was taken on the Avenue of Africa. After the Fair ended the fountain fell into dis-use but has been refurbished in recent years. Due to liability concerns the pool is not fully flooded, diminishing the impact the fountain had during the Fair, but it's wonderful to see it in action again. (CD #5 Set 19 #6)


 

The Statistics. The Unisphere is the largest representation of the earth man has ever made. It is 140 feet high and 120 feet in diameter, and - with its tripod-like base - weighs 900,00 pounds. The sphere is formed of an open grid of meridians and parallels. Laid on them are curved sheets of stainless steel representing the land masses; the capital of every nation is marked by a light.

The capital lights were special fixtures containing bulbs that rotated automatically if one burned out. This was done to eliminate the need for climbers to service them during the Fair. The lights are still in place today but the connecting wires were severed years ago.(CD #13 Set 61 #36)


 

Special lighting techniques were used to simulate the passage of the earth around the sun. Large towers held powerful spotlights that were synchronized to sweep across the globe. After the Fair ended some of the lights were used to light the famous Woodstock music festival stage. (CD #47 Set 210 #5)


 

The Design. Unprecedented problems had to be solved in constructing the huge model. Because the continents are not evenly distributed on earth, the Unisphere, which stands on three slender prongs, is an unbalanced ball. Furthermore the metal land-mass areas act as sails in the wind, building up enormous and unequal pressures against the curved surfaces. The structure required the solution of mathematical problems so complex that without high-speed computers planning the Unisphere would have taken 10 years. (Photo courtesy of John Pender)


 

If a picture is truly worth a thousand word then this one says volumes about the wonderful theme symbol of the Fair. (CD #22 Set 120 #1)


 

 


Want more information on the Unisphere?

5-6-63 - Ceremonies booklet
3-14-64 - Sphere of Influence
1995 - New York City Landmarks Preservation Report (external site)
 


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