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Saturday, November 19, 2011

In praise of the future..........The Trylon and Perisphere.


The Trylon and Perisphere were two modernistic structures, together known as the "Theme Center," at the center of the New York World's Fair of 1939-1940. Connected to the 700-foot (210 m) spire-shaped Trylon by what was at the time the world's longest escalator, the Perisphere was a tremendous sphere, 180 feet in diameter. The sphere housed a diorama called "Democracity" which, in keeping with the fair's theme "The World of Tomorrow", depicted a utopian city-of-the-future. Democracity was viewed from above on a moving sidewalk, while a multi-image slide presentation was projected on the interior surface of the sphere. After exiting the Perisphere, visitors descended to ground level on the third element of the Theme Center, the Helicline, a 950-foot-long (290 m) spiral ramp that partially encircled the Perisphere.

The Trylon and Perisphere became the central symbol of the 1939 World's Fair, its image reproduced by the million on a wide range of promotional materials and serving as the fairground's focal point. The United States issued a postage stamp in 1939 depicting the Trylon and Perisphere (pictured). Neither structure survives; however, the Unisphere is now located where the Perisphere once stood.

The Theme Center was designed by architects Wallace Harrison and J. Andre Fouilhoux, with the interior exhibit by Henry Dreyfuss. The structures were built in Flushing Meadows Park in Queens, New York and were intended as temporary with steel framing and plaster board facades. Both buildings were subsequently razed and scrapped after the closing of the fair, their materials to be used in World War II armaments.

 The word Perisphere was coined using the Greek prefix peri-, meaning all around, about, or enclosing, surrounding. The word Trylon was coined from the phrase "triangular pylon".


Composer (and Rhapsody in Blue orchestrator) Ferde Grofe was commissioned by the World's Fair to compose a piece of symphonic music dedicated to the sculptured edifices.

The Trylon is mentioned in the 1939 Yip Harburg song "Lydia the Tattooed Lady", made famous by Groucho Marx.

The Trylon Theatre, located on Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills, Queens, New York, operated from December, 1939 through December, 1999. The theatre's decor included several references to the 1939-40 World's Fair.

In the 1942 WB cartoon "Crazy Cruise", the Trylon and Perisphere are jokingly presented as being part of the pyramids of Egypt.

An episode of The Twilight Zone featured a view of these structures from the air.

Trylon and perisphere are mentioned as generic concepts by the main character as he is introduced in the beginning of Robert Silverberg's 1972 novel Dying Inside.

In the DC Comics comic book series All-Star Squadron (debuting in 1981), the Squadron used the Perisphere as their headquarters.

Howard Waldrop's 1985 short story "Heirs of the Perisphere" describes the excavation of the time capsule which was buried at the 1939 World's Fair.

In Robert Stone's novel Outerbridge Reach (copyright 1992), the deconstruction of the Trylon and Perisphere are seen as an allegory for America's sacrifice in World War II.

Singer/songwriter Aimee Mann created a song called "Fifty Years After the Fair" for her 1993 album Whatever, the subject of which is the 1939 World's Fair. The song references the Trylon and Perisphere while suggesting how little of the Fair's bright vision of the future had actually been realized in the "decades ahead" now passed.

In the 1995 episode Aubrey of the TV series The X-Files, the protagonist has visions of Trylon and perisphere leading the detectives to an important clue.

A photo of visitors on the walkway between the two structures is used as the cover art of the 2000 album Deltron 3030.

In the 2004 movie Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, whose title references the fair, the two structures are briefly seen in the Himalayas
 My Sumbeam T-9 toaser (note stylized motif of the Trylon and Perisphere)
Red Bakelite napkin ring with motif


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