World’s Most Famous Replica of NYC Gets a New Shine

The Panorama of the City of New York

“On long-term view at the Queens Museum, the Panorama of the City of New York was once the highlight of the World’s Fair in 1964. The miniature replica of New York City (including all five boroughs) took over 100 full-time workers nearly three years to build, and is still the largest architectural model of any city in the world to date. The Panorama was the brainchild of ‘master builder’ Robert Moses, who saw it as a tool for urban design and planning after it left the fair. The City of New York spent $672,662 in 1964 to construct the miniature metropolis, which included 830,000 buildings (now there are 895,000 buildings) over an area of 9,335 square feet. The meticulously crafted, hand-painted design continues to fascinate New Yorkers and global travelers alike, even after 53 years. … The new system includes 3,172 colored lights (which show the location of municipal facilities) and moving planes that ‘land every minute at LaGuardia.’ According to one of the foremen on the job, the new lighting was installed in 15 hour shifts over the course of six days. In Amazon Studios’ new film Wonderstruck (directed by Todd Haynes and starring Julianne Moore), the Panorama took the spotlight. In one scene, Moore’s character, Rose, leads her grandson, Ben (played by Oakes Fegley), through the exhibit, and the miniature cityscape acts as a parallel to her own personal narrative—a storytelling device for revealing memories. The previous lighting system ‘washed out a lot of the detail…and was not meant to be on for the duration of long museum days. [The] bulbs burned out so frequently that we could never keep up with changing them,’ says Laura Raicovich. Viewing the Panorama, either through the artistic lens of Wonderstruck or in-person, brings into perspective the sheer magnitude of the city, while also personalizing it for the observer. The act of locating one’s block or building becomes exercise in memory, an affirmation: I live here. I am part of something greater. ‘The overwhelming totality of seeing New York City in all its grandeur at once is pure magic,’ says Raicovich. ‘There is something very intimate about locating your own New York story standing on the ramps around the model.’ …”
The Culture Trip (Video)

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