The Panorama of the City of New York at the Queens Museum of Art is the only place in the city where you can feel like Godzilla for a little while. The Panorama is a scale model of all five boroughs, where an inch in the model is equal to a hundred feet in the actual city, allowing one to cover miles of sightseeing in only a few steps. To give you an idea of the scale, the Empire State Building is 15 inches tall. All 321 square miles of New York City are condensed into 9,335 square feet. Every building constructed before 1992 on every borough is represented in the model. It is the world’s largest architectural model. It’s not the people that are the size of ants here – it’s the buildings.
A team of 100 craftsmen from Raymond Lester Associates meticulously constructed the Panorama in 1964 with a margin of error of less than one percent. The last serious update to the Panorama was in 1992, again by Raymond Lester Associates, changing 60,000 structures. The most recent structure to be added was Citi Field. To fund the maintenance of the model, the Queens Museum launched the “Adopt-A-Building” program, where people can “buy” New York City real estate starting at $50. The Panorama has also been the host of various temporary exhibits, such as a model of the Olympic Village in 2005.
The Panorama of the City of New York, commissioned by Robert Moses for display during the 1964 World’s Fair, became a permanent exhibit in the Queens Museum of Art in 1972. During the World’s Fair, visitors experienced the Panorama in a simulated helicopter ride with a pre-recorded tour of the city. Today, visitors walk around a ramp that surrounds the model, either alone or with a tour guide. Every hour, a simulated sunrise lets visitors experience a whole day in New York.
If you love New York City geography trivia and want to show off your skills, you can take part in the annual Panorama Challenge at the Queens Museum of Art, where teams of 10 compete to identify 30 structures on the Panorama. This year’s competition was on March 1st.
The Queens Museum of Art is undergoing a massive renovation, so it is closed until October 6, 2013.