(smow) blog Design Calendar: April 22nd 1964 – New York World’s Fair Opens

“We have a World’s Fair opening in New York again today and it will, as always with fairs, offer the opportunity for looking forward into the future and backward into the past”, announced the New York Times on April 22nd 1964 with the unmistakable self-confident bluff of a journalist racing to meet a deadline and struggling to make the patently obvious sound anything but.

Although not officially sanctioned as a “World’s Fair” the 1964/65 New York World’s Fair attracted some 66 nations – including that great trading nation The Vatican – in addition to some hosting some 120 pavilions presenting the very best America had to offer.

Shown in a period of unmistakable economic growth the 1964 New York World’s Fair mirrored the spirit of hope and innovation of the age, a spirit largely presented in the easily digestible sugar-coated innocence of Walt Disney commerce and which introduced its visitors to a future that included the so-called “Picturephone” video-telephone from Bell Systems, cordless electronic appliances, personal computers that could instantly translate one language into another, and, as part of Norman Bel Geddes’ Futurama II installation for General Motors: a mechanical centipede that cut through rainforests with a laser and paved the path behind it.

The press and internet is today awash with texts about which objects and projects from the 1964 World’s Fair made it into our everyday lives, those which remain fantasy creations, and in the case of rainforest destroying laser insects, those which thankfully remain fantasy creations.

As an alternative celebration of an event that perhaps more than any other both helped us prepare for a brave, new, computer based future and which released the untameable Mustang of global commercialism upon an unsuspecting world, we present here “IBM at the Fair”, a film made by Charles and Ray Eames documenting the daily hurly-burly in the from Eames and Eero Saarinen designed, constructed and curated IBM Pavilion.

Presenting men in sharp suits, some very nice chairs and Charles Eames as a roving photojournalist, at around the three minute mark the film introduces one of the highlights of the IBM Pavilion; the Information Machine. Essentially a film and photo presentation of all that was good and great of the age, the clou with the Information Machine was the fact that the 500 audience members were transported into the auditorium on a hydraulic platform that lifted them some 20 meters into the roof of the pavilion.

Aside from being a delightful documentation of the open steel construction employed by Eames and Saarinen, of the multi-medial exhibition design approach developed by the Eames’, of 1964 America and of course the 1964 World’s Fair, “IBM at the Fair” is also a very nice reminder for all those youth and media professionals out there who think that films with stop motion and clunky music are somehow “now”.

They ain’t!

Oh, and check out the kid at 2 mins 16s. Genius!

IBM at the Fair by Charles and Ray Eames (1965). Film courtesy of The Eames Office

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