Built to house the New York City Pavilion for the 1939 World’s Fair, whose theme was “World of Tomorrow,” the now nearly 75-year-old Queens Museum of Art building has certainly seen its share of yesterdays. It was a recreation center, a home to the General Assembly of the newly formed United Nations from 1946 to 1950, a pavilion once again for the 1964 World’s Fair, and for much of the period since then, divided up into an art museum and an ice skating rink.
Plans to have the museum take over the entirety of the 105,000-square-foot limestone colonnaded structure have had an equally intriguing, and seemingly just as lengthy history. In 2001, Eric Owen Moss’s proposal to surgically remove the central portion of the building and re-enclose it with an undulating glass “drape” won a design competition for the museum’s expansion. The arrival of new museum executive director Tom Finkelpearl, however, saw the departure of Moss and the introduction of a far less radical expansion scheme which, since 2005, has been carried out by the New York office of Grimshaw with executive architect Ammann & Whitney. Original plans to begin construction by 2007 were delayed several times, with groundbreaking not taking place until 2011.