Sep 26, 2008


The Graham Foundation is an organization whom sponsors scholarly works in architectural research. This past week I submitted this proposal for continuing work on my world's fair project. I sincerely hope the Foundation can help support 'Future Passed:'

Into the London sky soared an incredible structure; 900,000 panes of glass delicately strung together by thin bands of iron, surrounded by an impeccable display of landscaping. Designed by Joseph Paxton, this massive structure was the architectural equivalent of total imperial might, the crowning achievement of industrial Victorian England. This was the great Crystal Palace of the first world’s fair, the Great Exposition of 1851.
Future Passed is an examination of how the sites and structures of world's fairs---conceived and built for a temporary, specific purpose---interact in today's unforeseen environment. World’s fairs were considered ‘timekeepers of progress,’ indicative of each era's greatest human achievement. Some of the most important architects of the 19th and 20th century were commissioned to construct fair pavilions, dazzling, unusual structures incorporating the most cutting-edge materials and engineering prowess possible at the time. Among them are Daniel Burnham, McKim, Mead, and White, Louis Sullivan, Eiffel, Le Corbusier, Ando, Mies Van der Rohe, and the landscaping of Frederick Law Olmstead.
But, what happens after the fair leaves town? Tragically, these extraordinary structures are often immediately demolished, reappropriated for far less grand ambitions, or simply neglected. There is a seeming arbitrariness to what survives. In Philadelphia, two of the four remnants from 1876 are fair toilet buildings. In Paris, we have such national icons as the Eiffel Tower, the Grand Palais, and the Palais de Tokyo. In Flushing Meadows Park of New York, Philip Johnson’s New York State Pavilion of 1964 sits in sad decrepitude, its stocky concrete support columns chipped and covered in ivy. As an architectural photographer, I became entranced with the fantastical buildings overgrown with weeds, often neglected and ill-fitting among the sleek, modern high-rises looming around them. I use time of year and day---as well as a lush or stark color palette---to further convey the atmosphere of these sometimes-ghostly sites.
To date, I have photographed 15 fair sites, including Paris, Brussels, Seville, Barcelona, Spokane, New York, New Orleans, San Diego, Philadelphia, and Chicago. Due to financial constraints, I have not yet had opportunity to photograph sites in Asia. With the support of the Graham Foundation, I would expand the project to include important architectural spectacles in Japan and Korea, such as Kenzo Tange's Festival Plaza in Osaka of the 1970 Expo.
The ultimate function of Future Passed is to serve as the definitive---albeit subjective and conceptual--- archive of photographs of world's fair sites. The final goal involves a five-year plan: to photograph 3-5 sites a year for the next five years (projected end date: 2013). When I have photographed 40-50 sites, I will approach museums and galleries for exhibition of large-scale color prints; ideal venues would be museums originally constructed for world’s fairs, such as the Queens Museum in New York and the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Additional plans involve a hardcover book. (I have worked with Kiki Bauer of Powerhouse books on preliminary layout.) Future Passed has been exhilarating and challenging, and I sincerely hope the Graham Foundation can help to further this project.

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