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Inside the domed Spacearium, visitors saw To the Moon and Beyond. The flat roof of the “Terrace on the Park” doubled as a helipad. (Courtesy David Eppen)

The Great Big, Beautiful Tomorrow

At the 1964 World’s Fair, the Space Age led the way to world peace, happiness, and fast cars.

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Land of wonders

At Futurama, travelers rode past deserts rendered fertile by irrigation from the distant sea; through jungles tamed by super-freeways; past the skyscraping City of the Future; and, of course, to the moon.

In those days, Jim Pirkl was a young draftsman seconded from GM’s Frigidaire appliance division to help plan the Futurama exhibit. “We didn’t think it was the impossible dream,” Pirkl, 83, recalls today. “Farming the jungles? We’d go in with big machines, clear the jungles, and grow food for mankind. Irrigate the deserts and provide food? We could do that too.

“Man on the moon? We made models where people would vacation on the moon and live in space capsule motels. It was a very, very optimistic time.” Pirkl went on to become one of America’s most distinguished industrial designers and chair of the Department of Design at Syracuse University. 

Robert Renfro, now professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Texas in Austin, also worked on the City of the Future and other fair exhibits. “The concepts were not guided; they were my own speculation,” he says. “We read a great deal about landing on the moon and the kind of things that could happen there. Unfortunately, what we really lacked was a visionary like Ray Bradbury or Buckminster Fuller. All our people came from car styling.” 

About Allen Abel

Brooklyn native Allen Abel attended the fair more than 40 times as a 14- and 15-year-old, then spent his college summers traveling to fairs in Montreal, San Antonio, and Osaka. His most recent article for Air & Space followed the specially trained ranger-pilots who patrol our largest national parks.

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