Milanese Archeologist Restoring NY Mosaics

Milan-native and expert archeologist Gionata Rizzi is looking to conserve a small part of New York City’s young history.

“The tent of Tomorrow” may not be the oldest site that Rizzi has worked with, but that does not diminish its place in history or its need for restoration as its condition is rapidly deteriorating.

Funded by the State of New York for the 1964 World’s Fair, “The tent of Tomorrow” was a futuristic-oriented project by one of the most prominent modernist architects of the 20th Century, Phillip Johnson. Johnson also designed the influential masterpiece “Glass House” in New Canaan, Conn. which he used as a personal residence.

“The tent of Tomorrow” can be found, along with other remains from the 1964 New York World’s Fair, in Flushing Meadows in Queens. At the end of the Fair in 1965, the roof of the tent was removed and the floor of 567 4-by-4 foot panels that comprised a highway map of New York State were left to the merciless elements of nature and vandals.

Rizzi’s approach to this project is similar to his restoration of a colorful and artfilled roof on the Fourth Century Villa Romana del Casale in Piazza Armerina, Sicily. His interest in the project stems from three issues which he believes “The tent of Tomorrow” addresses: how to conserve the mosaics without disturbing Johnson’s creation and his hopes for the project, to revive what was viewed as futuristic in 1964 and to find if an aesthetic exists for modern ruins.

Working with Rizzi, two other individuals made this restoration project a possibility. Professor Frank Matero, the son of Italian immigrants and head of the historic preservation program at the University of Pennsylvania, saw the exhibit in his youth at the 1964 Fair and is now calling on the help of his graduate students to assist in the restoration. Lisa Ackerman, vice director of the World Monuments Fund, named “The tent of Tomorrow” as one of the hundred monuments most at risk in the world. This brought the site to the attention of the New York State which then began to take measures for its conservation and also brought this slice of history back into the minds of New Yorkers.