The New York World’s Fair featured 140 pavilions spread over 646 acres of land. It served as a showcase for many American companies, including IBM, General Electric, Dupont, and Ford. This extravaganza, whose theme was “Man’s Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe,” entertained and informed 51 million attendees.
IBM’s pavilion was situated on a 1.2 acre site alongside the “Pool of Industry,” and its gigantic Ovoid Theater floated nearly 100 feet above visitors’ heads. Eero Saarinen and Charles began working together on the pavilion concepts as early as 1961, and by 1962 the Eames Office had made the first of two presentation films to introduce their ideas to IBM.
The project was the Eames Office’s largest and most impressive undertaking to date. They were responsible for the exhibitions, graphics, signage, and films, all of which focused on the influence of computers in contemporary society, and the similarity between the ways that man and machine process and interpret information.
To reach the Ovoid Theater, visitors were lifted 53 feet into the egg-like structure by means of the “People Wall.” Configured like a grandstand, it could carry over 400 guests. The Theater housed a field of 22 multi-sized, multi-shaped screens where visitors watched the Eames presentation, Think. The Eames Office film, IBM at the Fair, offers an idea of the experience.
The film explored problem-solving techniques for issues both commonplace and complex—from organizing the seating chart for a dinner party to city planning. Demonstrating the importance of the Guest/Host Relationship, an emcee greeted the audience and introduced some of the more complicated sequences.
Below the Ovoid Theater, the Eames Office created an amalgam of activities to introduce IBM’s newest products. The grounds also featured components from the exhibition Mathematica: A World of Numbers . . . and Beyond. Every aspect of the IBM pavilion emphasized the ways in which computers could be an integral part of our future.
To gain a sense of the experience, view this Eames Office film, IBM at The Fair: