NYC Panorama at the Queens Museum of Art


Unbeknownst to most visitors of New York City, the Queens Museum of Art holds the massive NYC Panorama.  The attraction was commissioned by master builder and urban planner Robert Moses for display at the 1964 World’s Fair as a powerful representational tool and as a spectacle.


The 1” = 100’ scale of the project and the attention to detail in creating the model is unparalleled.  The model encompasses over 9,000 square feet and features 895,000 individual structures, which is accurate down to every single house and landmark in all five Boroughs. In three years, the Panorama was built by a team of 100 people at Raymond Lester Associates for the opening of the Fair. In planning the model, artists referred to aerial photographs, insurance maps, and a range of other City material.  The Panorama had to be accurate, as Moses demanded less than one percent margin of error between reality and the model.

constructing landscape model

After the Fair, the Panorama remained open as a tourist site, mostly forgetting its original intended use as an urban planning tool.  Until 1970 all of the changes in the Panorama were accurately recreated in the model by Lester’s team. After 1970 very few changes were made until 1992, when again the team updated over 60,000 structures.  As of 2013, the original modeled World Trade Center towers still stand over lower Manhattan as a tribute.  However anachronistic this Panorama model becomes, it will stand as a monument to the great achievements of Moses and the urban growth of New York City in the twentieth century.


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