IBM Pavilion NY World’s Fair

DATE - 1964

The New York World’s Fair (1964-1965) featured 140 pavilions spread over 646 acres of land. It served as a showcase for American companies including IBM, General Electric, Dupont, and Ford. This extravaganza’s theme was “Man’s Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe,” which entertained and informed 51 million attendees.

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Within the fair was the Eames Office’s largest and most impressive undertaking to date: the IBM Pavilion. Eero Saarinen and Charles Eames 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 Eames Office was 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.

This pavilion was situated on a 1.2-acre site alongside the “Pool of Industry,” and its gigantic Ovoid Theater floated nearly one hundred feet above visitors’ heads. 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, the People Wall 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 Eames exhibition “Mathematica: A World of Numbers . . . and Beyond.” Every aspect of the IBM pavilion emphasized the ways in which computers could be an integral, unthreatening part of our future. 

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