The Most Amazing Room In Queens

Last week, I went the New York Hall of Science in Queens to take some scout pictures, my first time visiting.

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The Hall of Science was originally built for the 1964 World’s Fair, and while it’s gone through many renovations over the years, this oddly-shaped cement portion speckled with black dots clearly dates back to its heyday. Honestly, it’s not the prettiest thing in Flushing Meadows, and I’ve never really given it a second thought.

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About halfway through the tour, my guide brought me to a pair of unassuming doors marked, simply, Great Hall. What I didn’t realize is that we were about to enter this cement portion…

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…and, without question, one of the most amazing rooms I’ve ever been in in New York City:

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Click for huge panorama!

If the size of this room isn’t clear from my pictures, those are 100 foot ceilings. Here’s a picture with the lights on…

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…and the lights off – note the exit door for comparison:

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Click for huge panorama!

Standing in the darkened room, towered over by undulating walls of glowing blue glass, I literally felt like I had left the planet…which is exactly what the architects originally envisioned.

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The Great Hall, originally the main exhibit area of the Hall of Science, was designed to give visitors the illusion of being in deep space. A docking spacecraft could originally be seen suspended high overhead.

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Despite its somewhat austere appearance from the exterior, once inside, the walls take on a calming, wave-like feel:

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Below, a close up of the Dalle de Verre glass, whose imperfections feel particularly extraterrestrial. Look closely in the above pictures and you’ll see the occasional bit of red or yellow:

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With the lights turned on, the exposed framing feels like the interior of an Alien-esque spaceship:

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Click for huge panorama!

With the lights off, that ship has long since gone, leaving you to float in the void:

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Click for huge panorama!

In recent years, the Great Hall has been going through some much needed restoration work, and is currently off limits to the public. Work is scheduled to be finished in 2014, at which point it will then return as the centerpiece to the Hall of Science.

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This awesome, appropriately futuristic support beam located directly below the center of the Great Hall is also original to the structure:

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I’m a huge fan of retro-futurism, and this just screams Tomorrowland to me:

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I can’t wait to see how the Great Hall is eventually reintroduced as part of the exhibits:

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My hope is that it will continue to serve its original purpose in offering New Yorkers a way of leaving Planet Earth for a short while.

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40 comments

  1. That must have been some surprise!

  2. I was at the 1964 World’s Fair; pretty young at the time. Was the Blue Room up then? I don’t recall it; but I don’t remember a lot from the Fair.

  3. I was just there for the worlds maker faire. They had musical tesla coils in that room. Really was an amazing setting.

  4. OOooooh prettyyy! I want to go next time I’m in New York.

  5. IIRC, there were two spacecraft traveling on curved tracks, suspended from the ceiling, that simulated a space docking. But I remember at the time being more impressed with the “space cathedral” architecture than the fake spacecraft.

  6. nice!!! i’ve always loved this room in the hall of science – visited there a lot as a kid. thank you for telling more people about it! queens love <3

  7. Vanessa Daou shot this music video at the New York Hall of Science in Queens. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVo1yR6ktj4&ob=av2e

  8. @ Alex W – I agree with you, I don’t believe the Hall of Science was completed during the first year of the Fair.

  9. This reminds me of the Gedächtniskirche (huge photo: http://www.die-orgelseite.de/pict/D_Berlin_KaiserWilhelmGedaechtniskirche.jpg ) in Berlin. This church was built in 1957 by Egon Eiermann to commemorate the bombing of Berlin during WW2. The original bombed church still stands besides this new building.

    The Hall of Science was created by Wallace Harrison, one of the great New York modern architects during his time. I like to think he visited Berlin one day and was inspired by this house of God to build his house of Science.

    • It also reminds me of that church! It’s so stunning in person. Photos really don’t do it justice. I would imagine this space in New York is fantastic in person!

  10. This was also one of several old World’s Fair locations used in the movie version of “The Wiz.” It served as the chambers that Dorothy stayed in before she and her friends met the wizard. I will admit it is not a great movie, or even a good one, but there are some awesome location shots throughout New York.

  11. After viewing the images large sized and seeing the location of the red and yellow “bits” within the frames, I have to wonder if they aren’t part of a large scale Cypher.

  12. Of course, I meant to say Cipher.

  13. OK, just so long as it is not a Louis Cipher. Wow, Nick this place is too cool. Hard to believe that this is where I used to run my dog before the Fair was built.

  14. Your pictures are breathtaking, as usual. Would you mind telling us, which camera you use?

    I remember having been to the museum a few years back but I have no recollection whatsoever of an oddly shaped building or this amazing room. I went through my travel reports and discovered why: http://verbloggtundzugeflixt.blogspot.com/2010/03/reisebericht-nyc-patriotismus.html > first picture. Back in 2009 (I keep being late with my reports) the building was behind scaffolding. And I think a part of the museum was closed, so probably that was this amazing space.

  15. Super terrific!

  16. The red and yellow bits are meant to be stars and planets, and are intentional

  17. Have great memories of going to the HOS many times in the late 60’s (and even early 70’s??)to view the film “Rendezvous in Space” by Frank Capra (!!) which used to be shown at the HOS during the Fair and was retained for a while after. There was a part in the presentation where the film stopped, and then the actual model space shuttles on the ceiling complete a docking maneuver. I have found the film on the web, but would give anything to sit there and watch it “live” once more!!! More info below:

    This short film was Capra’s last. He wrote, produced, and directed it for the Martin-Marietta Corporation and it was shown shown at the Hall of Science Pavillion during the World’s Fair in New York City from 1964 through 1965.

    There is little documentation about the film (e.g. nothing at the imdb.com site.) This newsgroup posting 35mm print of Frank Capra’s NY world’s Fair Film on Ebay – Google Search /rec.arts.movies.past-films archive – Sept.25.98 states that the film influenced Kubrick and 2001. Also,

    “[t]he film stars Danny Thomas and features Sigorney Weaver’s uncle (Doodles), Sid Melton and Charles Lane. The animated sequence has the voices of Jim Bacus and (as a carrot) Mel Blanc. The film is in 35mm and Cinema Scope.”

    Besides the print that this person was trying to sell, there are only two other copies known to exist (one at the Library of Congress and one at NY University in the Everson Collection).”

  18. Amazing!!! well done, great stuff…

  19. Went on plenty of school trips to the hall of science as a kid attending ps114. Always my favorite trip of the year. I still go every other year or so and eat space food. A hidden NYC treasure. There is a pretty good zoo over there too…

  20. The Great Hall used to host proms & parties until June of 1994, when a 10-pound pipe fell off a catwalk during the Springfield Gardens High School prom & killed 17-year-old Micha Chatmon. I don’t think it ever was established why that piece of pipe was up there or where it came from; it didn’t match or go with anything else in the structure. The Hall was re-opened eventually; I remember there being a maze there in the late ’90s. It’s an amazing space with astonishing acoustics; a Theremin concert there would be awesome!

  21. They’ve used this room in a few music videos. I’ve lived in NY all my life and never been to this place, just passing it on my way to my grandparents house, but I recognized this immediately. Craig Mack, a rapper from the 1990s used it for the Flava In Ya Ear video (its probably on You Tube). They’ve used it more recently, but I can’t remember where. But this picture encouraged me to check it out for myself.

  22. Here is the Craig Mack video showing the room. It had a cool effect. He used it obviously because the video was low tech, but it added a cool visual. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVOrUjxsVIU

  23. Enjoyed, your pictures, and comments. Loved seeing the picture of NY State pavilion before the neglect became obvious. I visited the fair 12 times as a kid, and still get a certain thrill when visiting the park.

  24. OMG you have a job that’s really fun! Thanks for sharing; I found you through HomeDesignFind. Here’s the link for a modern townhouse in Manhattan that is heated and cooled by a ground-source heat pump. The http://inhabitat.com/geothermal-manhattan-townhouse/

  25. An answer from an expert! Thanks for cnortbituing.

  26. St James, the Apostle R.C. Church in Carmel, NY was designed by the same architect at the same time and looks nearly identical to the Hall of Science

  27. If you make it to Indianapolis, check out the upper room of the Soldier’s and Sailor’s monument (looks like a pyramid on the outside). At the time it was built, it was the most expensive building in Indiana (the red-brown marble columns have to be seen to be believed)…so much was spent building it it sparked riots. It’s a fabulous room in a dull, boring state…but worth the trip (this from someone who’s been to Salizbury, Canterbury, The Forbidden City, The Great Wall, Rome, etc…..

  28. Just saw this used in an episode of USA’s White Collar(S4 E14 Shoot the Moon). I think its awesome when, as a Texan, I can recognize locations in a city I come to love so much through reading. A lot of the reading has been your blog so thank you!

  29. I was thinking that you must scout for White Collar – this was the third time I’ve seen one of your amazing scouted spaces featured on that show. so fun to read the back stories and later see them on the show!

  30. Made a family visit there today, I was last there as a kid maybe 35 years ago. I was so impressed by the Hall compared to other local science museums, but so disappointed that the Great Hall was under renovation. The heart and soul of the Hall of Science and without a doubt its greatest feature, the fact that it is just sitting idly by waiting for a purpose is just sad. They need to work exhibits back into the Great Hall and reopen it, along with the planetarium. A real shame, I won’t be going back until they reopen the Great Hall again.

    • Was just there today for an Open House NY tour led by one of the architects involved in the renovation. They are hoping to have a grand reopening in April 2015. We will see if they stick to schedule. The space is still magnificent but closed to the public.

  31. I’m truly enjoying the design and layout of your site. It’s
    a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more enjoyable for me to come here and visit more often.
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  32. Back in the 1960s, possibly even at the World’s Fair, the Great Hall had a show that as I recall referenced not the Space Shuttle program which didn’t start until 1972 (cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_program ) but rather as I recall the earlier project Dyna-Soar of the USAF which ran from 1957 to December 1963 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyna-Soar). Project Dyna-Soar was referenced in a children’s adventure science stories of the era that I remember reading in the early 1970s though I’m not able to find the reference just now. See the youtube video of the X20 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1sO8OKKFZg

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