One of three structures designed by Philip Johnson for the 1964 World's Fair held in Queens, New York, the open-air Theaterama has become the main civic theater for the borough. (The other two structures remain, but have been left abandoned for the past 44 years.) The design team was asked to create an addition for the theater to house an entrance and reception hall for 600 people, a party room that would be visible from the surrounding park, a cabaret space to accommodate 90 people, and offices.
Working closely with representatives from multiple city agencies and community groups, the design team used the cylindrical form of Johnson's Theaterama building to marry past with present and to provide Queens Theatre in the Park with a dynamic new facility. The addition flanks the existing drum-shaped building respectfully, and the spiral form of the new glass reception center allows visitors to approach the structure from all sides while framing views of the oak allées and the ruins from the World's Fair, including the Unisphere.
Color plays an important role in defining the presence of the new building. The sunset-gold pigmented plaster of the inverted spherical dome of the entrance and reception hall is a result of community input and reflects the multicultural nature of Queens' 106 different ethnic groups. Concealed cold-cathode tubes in shades of orange and peach ring the dome and complement the ceiling, while the gradation of color leads people to the entrances. As day turns to night, the ceiling glows with saturated color and celebrates the theatrical nature of the space.
Jury Comments: A sophisticated use of static colored light. • The use of color enhances the architecture.