“Selling Spirituality and Spectacle: Religious Pavilions at the New York World’s Fair of 1964–65”
Nicoletta, Julie. “Selling Spirituality and Spectacle: Religious Pavilions at the New York World’s Fair of 1964–65.” Buildings & Landscapes: Journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum 22, no. 2 (Fall 2015): 62–68.
Nicoletta, professor of architectural history, sees the World’s Fair of 1964-65 reflecting a major shift in the 1960s from modernism to postmodernism—i.e., to plurality, uncertainty, decentralization, and religion as less as an institution and more as laity-driven “servant churches” (63). World’s Fairs had always symbolized “the emancipation of humanity by progress” (63). Yet in 1964, outside the fairgrounds were poverty, the civil rights movement, the Cold War and the stalemate in Vietnam. Unlike past Fairs’ emphasis on unity by gathering together different faiths in a single pavilion, this Fair’s denominations each had its own distinctively designed pavilion competing to be visible to a changing, troubled world and attract as many visitors as possible. Each intended their modern pavilions and exhibits to relay a dynamic message of salvation and a progressive relevance to contemporary times. The Christian Science pavilion was “a dazzling white structure topped by a translucent pyramid that bathed the interior with light” (67). Set in a pool of water was a small reading room and a larger star-shaped exhibit section—each of the seven projecting eaves recalling the crown in the Church seal. The natural light, reflecting pool, white color, and symbolic use of the number seven, conveyed the beauty and harmony of Christian Science.
Print ISSN: 1936-0886