A miniature version of our world is coming to the Crossroads of the World with Gulliver’s Gate in Times Square.
Named for Jonathan Swift’s adventurer who washes up in the tiny kingdom of Lilliput, Gulliver’s Gate is like a model train set taken to the next five levels. The 87th-scale exhibit spans 300 scenes of famous manmade landmarks — the Taj Mahal, Times Square, St. Basil’s in Moscow — to natural wonders, from the bucolic New England countryside to the Philippines’ rice terraces.
New York gets an entire room to itself — just don’t make too much of the Guggenheim being around the corner from the Chrysler Building, as the exhibit takes a bit of artistic license.
“Creating beautiful models and landscapes that have exhausting detail always interested me as child,” says Michael Langer, co-founder and vice president of development at Gulliver’s Gate. Alas, “I always had better vision than dexterity. What better way to fulfill the dream of having the biggest toy in the world than working with the best artists from around the globe to help bring my vision to life?”
For a tiny world, Gulliver’s Gate spans a massive 50,000 square feet. It not only condenses the highlights of our modern world but weaves in the past, like the Lenape Indian settlement on the banks of the East River near the Brooklyn Bridge, right where it stood centuries ago.
“With the fluidity of time and space, we can be ever-changing and always relevant,” Langer explains. Expect the exhibit to keep changing, adding new scenes that look to the past, incorporate new marvels, and even speculate on the possible future, like a Martian space station.
This isn’t just a fancy diorama though. Look closer, and you’ll see surprising details everywhere. There are zombies chasing tourists in Egypt, a protest in Israel, and police surrounding a suspicious package on a subway platform beneath Grand Central. The exhibition isn't afraid to get real.
“Gulliver’s Gate is the realization of a vision by over 600 artists and craftspeople from around the world,” says Langer. “The model makers were tasked to create a world that best represents how they see the region they are from. They were also given a fair amount of latitude to impart their own personality and humor into the exhibit.”
Trains won’t be the only moving parts. There’s a working airport, cars that will move on magnetized tracks, skiers will come down the slopes of formerly Olympic host city Sochi and more. Guests who spring for an RFID key can use it to activate scenes like the Loch Ness Monster emerging from its lake and Zeus raining down thunder and lightning from Mount Olympus.
Gulliver’s Gate also ties back to the real world, with visitors able to step inside the control room that monitors the whole exhibit and talk to the “conductors,” as well as watch new models be created in two active workshops. And if you just can’t bear to leave, a figurine of yourself can be created and inserted into various scenes, like St. Mark’s Square in Venice.