Restored Fountain of the Fairs

When the 1964 World’s Fair made its way to Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens NY, an iconic Unisphere took center stage to symbolize the world’s entrance into the space age. Between this massive steel earth and Fountain of the Planets, lies the historic reflecting pools and Fountain of the Fairs. These water features were seriously damaged during Hurricane Sandy and in disrepair until a recent $6.8 million upgrade restored them to their full glory.

McLaren Engineering Group’s multidisciplinary teams provided survey, civil engineering, geotechnical engineering, structural engineering and construction support for the renovation and adaptive re-use of the historic landmark reimagined by NYC Parks.

The McLaren Difference: Applied Ingenuity

To help keep the original footprint, dimensions, and design but integrate new resilient infrastructure and additional water features, our team provided detailed condition assessments, geotechnical investigations, structural analysis, and design for the new framed concrete slab over the existing pools. We also engineered various water supply and drainage/utility structures, designing the storm sewer system and subsurface drainage layouts.

Settlement of the Restored Fountain

The new design of the restored fountain added extensive weight to the existing pool. In order to prevent settling new concrete slab, pavers, pipes, and concrete masonry unit walls were installed. This enabled the whole structure to act as one big monolithic mass allowing it to settle evenly and not cause issues like tripping hazards. The restored fountain is supported by 40 transverse CMU block walls and two longitudinal walls that vary in height from 1 ft, 3 in. to 2 ft, 3 in., depending on their locations along the pool. The surface of the fountain consists of pavers over a 6 in. thick concrete slab. Everything below is filled in with gravel. In all, the new fountain includes 1.8 mi of water pipes up to 8 in. in diameter.

Another challenge was to make sure the water could drain at the lowest level of the fountain. McLaren engineered the CMU block walls to have weep holes along the base, reducing the possibility of water collecting at the bottom of the pool. The original base of the fountain still slopes to the center, and at the center — running the length — is a perforated pipe to drain excess water. McLaren also added some extra grading to improve the slope a bit more. The pool slopes lengthwise from the west to east as it steps down, with the east end approximately 3 ft, 7 in. lower than the west.