The Unisphere: Shiny Symbol of Queens

1964 World's Fair icon restored to former glory

Unisphere Globe in Queens, New York
Cityscape_nyc / Getty Images

The Unisphere is a beautiful, giant steel globe that sits in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, New York, so iconic that like the Queen of Corona, it has become the symbol of Queens. It is a famous sight in central Queens and is visible to drivers on the Long Island Expressway, Grand Central Parkway, and Van Wyck Expressway, as well as to airline passengers arriving and departing from ​LaGuardia and JFK airports. The Unisphere is the best symbol of the borough and also one of the largest globes ever made.

1964 World's Fair Symbol

The Unisphere found its perch in Queens for the 1964 World's Fair. The U.S. Steel Corporation built it as a symbol of world peace and reflected the World's Fair's theme, "Peace Through Understanding." Since then the Unisphere has welcomed visitors, soccer players, museum and theatergoers, Mets fans and the people of Queens, New York.

The Unisphere, designed by renowned landscape architect Gilmore Clarke, is made of stainless steel and is 140 feet high and 120 feet in diameter. It weighs 900,000 pounds. Since the continents are the heaviest parts of the all-steel sculpture and they aren't evenly distributed, the Unisphere is top heavy. Very top heavy. It was carefully engineered to account for the unbalanced mass. A pool and fountains surround the Unisphere, giving it the illusion of floating off the ground, and it is lit at night for dramatic effect.

The Unisphere suffered from neglect over the years, as did Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, and by the 1970s both were showing significant signs of deterioration. In 1989, a 15-year plan was begun to renovate the park and the Unisphere to its former World's Fair glory, and in 1994 the spectacular results were debuted with the re-opening of the park. The globe itself was repaired and cleaned. The pool and fountains surrounding it were restored and more spray jets added to the fountains. New landscaping topped off the conservation of this iconic structure, which was designated a City Landmark in 1995.

Views of the Unisphere 

One of the best views of the Unisphere is from the Van Wyck driving south. You'll see the Manhattan skyline behind the Unisphere, and if you time it right, the sunset will dazzle the vista. Of course, you get the closest views in the park, but the most surprising ones are from the side streets of Flushing, west of Main Street.

The Place Itself

The Unisphere is more than just a mountain of steel delicately perched above the Flushing Meadows Park; it is a beautiful spot for Queens locals to stroll, a meeting place for friends and a hangout for teenage skaters. The Unisphere makes the park extraordinary. It's a reminder that the world does live in the borough: The people of Queens come from more places, from Albania to Zimbabwe than anywhere else on the planet. The Unisphere is at home in a borough that is often a home away from home for a number of its residents.

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