The Unisphere – Tourist Attractions in Queens, New York City
Unisphere is a 12-story high, spherical stainless steel representation of the Earth. It is located in Flushing Meadows Park in the Borough of Queens, New York City.
The Unisphere, commissioned to celebrate the beginning of the space age, was conceived and constructed as the Theme Symbol of the 1964/1965 New York World’s Fair. The Theme of the World’s Fair was “Peace Through Understanding” and the Unisphere represented the theme of global interdependence. It was dedicated to “Man’s Achievements on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe.”
Designed by landscape architect Gilmore D. Clarke, the Unisphere was donated by the United States Steel Corporation and constructed by that company’s American Bridge Division. It is the world’s largest global structure, rising 140 feet and weighing 700,000 pounds. Some sources say the Unisphere weighs 900,000 pounds, a figure which includes the additional weight of its 100-ton inverted tripod base. The diameter of the sphere itself is 120 feet, or 36.57 meters. It is constructed of Type 304L Stainless Steel.
Built on the structural foundation that supported the 1939/1940 New York World’s Fair’s Perisphere, Unisphere is centered in a large, circular reflecting pool and is surrounded by a series of water-jet fountains designed to obscure its tripod pedestal. The effect is meant to make Unisphere appear as if it is floating in space.
During the fair, dramatic lighting at night gave the effect of sunrise moving over the surface of the globe. Additionally, the capitals of nations were marked by uniquely designed lights that held four bulbs each. When one would burn out, another would rotate in place so that the bulbs would not have to be changed during the two-year run of the Fair. None of these lighting effects are still in operation.
Three large orbit rings of stainless steel encircle Unisphere at various angles. These orbit rings represent the tracks of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, and Telstar, the first active communications satellite. America was at the height of the Space Age when Unisphere was constructed, and the rings serve as reminders of America’s early space achievements.
In 1989, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation announced a multi-million dollar rehabilitation of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Among the projects was a complete restoration of the Unisphere. Begun in late 1993 and completed on May 31, 1994, the project included numerous structural repairs and removal of years worth of grime which had accumulated on the steel. The fountains, which had been shut off since the 1970s, were replaced, and new floodlighting was installed.
On May 10, 1995, the Unisphere was given official landmark status by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. It is the only officially designated landmark in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The Unisphere is the “unofficial” symbol of the Borough of Queens, NY.
Flushing Meadows Park, Flushing
Subway #7 to Flushing Meadows