Jade Doskow: Lost Utopias

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday January 25, 2017

The title of Jade Doskow’s recent book, Lost Utopias, resonates on more than one level, not least of which is the uncommon beauty of her luminous well-observed images. Her photographs of World’s Fair/International Exposition sites, stateside and worldwide, often portray crumbling artifacts of American technological glory, such as the New York State Pavilion at the New York 1964 World’s Fair (celebrating the space race), or Buckminster Fuller’s mammoth geodesic dome for Expo ’67, Montreal (celebrating American creativity). Above: ©Jade Doskow, Montreal 1967 World’s Fair, “Man and His World,” Buckminster Fuller’s Geodesic Dome With Solar Experimental House 2012

Until the collapse of the Soviet Union, the mid-century American presence on the World Expo circuit was a given, and defined by its proclaimed—and often demonstrated—superiority in every field, from science and technology to art and commerce. Her scope goes well beyond the American presence during the Cold War years, with a special emphasis on Brussels 1958, Paris 1889 and 1937, and Montreal 1967. But the urgent American expression of pride and might, which today can be viewed as almost quaintly anachronistic, is respectfully presented along with an occasional—and well-deserved—dash of irony.

In paging through the book, it’s hard not to linger on Doskow’s images of the World’s Fair 1964 New York State Pavilion, designed by architect Philip Johnson. The building, lauded by critic Ada Louise Huxtable as “a runaway success…seriously and beautifully constructed”, was unlike the architect’s corporate architecture in every possible way. In the book, it appears twice, in photographs that honor its futuristic crumbling beauty.

The photographer’s unconcealed delight in Fuller’s geodesic dome offers the reader a poetic view of the 20-storey skeleton twice: once on the cover and again, inside. The Seattle Space Needle, one of the city’s most-visited tourist attractions, is seen here from a resident’s point of view, with a pile of ordinary two-story houses in the foreground. And San Antonio’s (that’s right, San Antonio, Texas) 1968 Hemisfair’s claim to posterity is a public fountain fashioned from the expo’s monorail structure. This official World’s Fair site (was funded by a federal slum clearance program, through which 1,600 people were displaced. More than half of Hemisfair Park’s 192 acres is now being redeveloped as a mixed-use park for the local population.


©Jade Doskow, New York 1964 World’s Fair, “Peace Through Understanding,” New York State Pavilion, Winter View 2014

For the United States of America, participation in World’s Fairs or Expos has become untenable, mainly due to the fact that the State Department no longer funds or administers an enabling design/construction program as it once did. But that’s another story for a future issue of DART. The last outing, with a reclaimable structure promoting agricultural technology by architect James Biber, was Milan 1915. Through lack of support and funding, this wonderful structure and its exhibits cost the architect and designers millions in unpaid fees. So, yes, the glory days are gone and so the book offers a tremendous nod of respect for what it takes to engage in the presentation of concepts that are innately ineffable: A New Humanism (1958); Peace Through Understanding (1964); Energy Turns the World (1982); Fresh Water as a Source of Life (1984), to name a few.

Images from Jade Doskow’s Lost Utopias go on view January 28th at Walnut Hill Fine Arts, in Hudson, New York, continuing through March 10, with a book signing in February. Info
Lost Utopias will opens at the John Hartell Gallery, in the Cornell University College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, Tuesday, March 21, 5 pm. Info
The International Centre of New Delhi will present another iteration of Lost Utopias, opening February 10th. Info.
Lost Utopias (Black Dog Publishing, 2016) by Jade Doskow, with essays by Richard Pare and Jennifer Minner. Info

Architectural and landscape photographer Jade Doskow is known for her rigorously composed and eerily poetic images that examine the intersection of people, nature, and time. Based in New York, she holds a BA from New York University and an MFA in Photography from the School of Visual Arts. She is on the photography faculty of the School of Visual Arts and International Center of Photography. Doskow was named 'One to Watch' by American Photo in 2013; other publications include The Atlantic, American Photo, Design Arts Daily, New York Observer, NPR Picture Show, ArchDaily, and Wired. Recent exhibitions include SIFest Photo Festival in Italy, Lost Utopias at Onishi Project and Stories in the Social Landscape at ICP. Her photographs were featured on billboards as part of the Paint the City project. Doskow is a contributor to the ESTO archive of architectural photography. Doskow is currently working with the award-winning filmmaker Philip Shane on a documentary about her world's fair project, due for completion in 2015-16, and also working on a book of this work. She lives and works out of Brooklyn, New York, with her husband Lambert and son Benjamin. Info