This past weekend, as part of Open House New York, Eero Saarinen’s landmarked TWA Terminal opened to the public for the first time this decade. The Trans World Airlines Flight Center at John F. Kennedy (then Idlewild) International Airport opened on May 28, 1962, seven years after architect had been given the commission, and eight months after his death from a brain tumor at age 51.
When it opened in an era when architecture was used to articulate cultural and economic aspirations, the terminal expresses (to paraphrase Ada Louise Huxtable) the faith “that science and technology would bring us a better world.”
These days, you enter the Saarinen’s terminal in reverse, through the dramatic red carpeted "flight tubes" that used to lead to the planes. Is this the future? we asked one another as we bathed in the tunnel's surreal light.
Currently under renovation by Beyer Blinder Belle, the terminal remains an elegant ode to a bygone era of airline travel, when the airport functioned as a port of pre-flight leisure.
The airy openness of the terminal creates the sensation of being in an amphitheater where the entire space is the stage, like an unexpected event is about to take place. A late-night flight to Shanghai? A cigarette and cocktail at the bar? The space breathes anticipation
Around every curve, there are places to sit: the Lisbon Lounge, the Paris Café (we’ll forgive the early 1960s for their kitschy names), clusters of inviting red upholstered seats. Even the bathroom, with its marble floor and dot-tiled walls, row of clean sinks and elegantly designed trash cans, is inviting.
The VIP lounge (also known as the Constellation Club) is an ode to the outlandish tackiness of early seventies “exclusive décor”: the mirrored surfaces, the Nair pink finishes, the soft yellow lighting -- a glamour so dated that it has become quaint.
But the terminal is far from dead. Beyer Blinder Belle’s restoration has resuscitated a sleeping icon; plans are in the works to reopen the terminal to the public "on a limited basis" within the next year, bringing us the chance the bask in a future that lives in the past.
· TWA Terminal at JFK could reopen before 2012 [NewYorkology]
· Open House New York coverage [Curbed]