A Photographic Tour of the Wonders That World’s Fairs Leave Behind

Jade Doskow goes to old World’s Fair sites and photographs the remnants of once glorious visions

Buckminster Fuller's Geodesic Dome, 1967 World Exposition, Montreal (Jade Doskow)
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Jade Doskow takes pictures of optimism frozen in time.

For almost 10 years, the New York-based photographer has traveled around the planet to the sites where millions once gathered for World's Fairs. She has photographed the remnants of visions past, the architectural wonders and landscapes that celebrated human glory and potential. 

Some, such as the Eiffel Tower or the replica of the Parthenon in Nashville, have held on to their magic, still able to inspire awe. But others have become neglected curiosities in a world that has moved on.

"These buildings exist in a very weird limbo, often in prominent locations. No one wants to tear them down. But how much money do you want to put into them to keep them around?" says Doskow. A book of her photography, titled Lost Utopias, will be published this fall.

The Tent of Tomorrow, 1964 World’s Fair, New York

Philip Johnson’s "Tent of Tomorrow" was once a brightly-colored spectacle with a terrazzo floor featuring a road map of the state of New York. But the structure was badly overgrown when Doskow photographed it in 2007. Nearby, and equally rundown, were the other remaining relics of that fair’s New York Pavillion, including Johnson's “Astro-View” observation towers, which had a memorable cameo in the1997 movie Men in Black.

To Doskow, it felt surreal, melancholy and oddly beautiful.

“Do I think it’s Philip Johnson’s finest work? No,” she says. “Do I think it’s the most spectacular world’s fair structure I’ve ever seen? No. But it’s still fascinating on many levels.”

In honor of that World Fair’s 50th anniversary, the Tent of Tomorrow received a facelift in 2014, including a fresh paint job. While it was briefly opened to the public, visitors had to wear hard hats. But now it looks like the once decaying building could get a new life. In March, the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced a design competition to re-imagine a purpose for these symbols of the future.  

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