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Touring Saarinen's Iconic TWA Terminal Before Redevelopment

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Crowds brave enough to make their way to JFK Airport on Saturday were transported back to the 1960s. The TWA Flight Center opened its doors as part of this year's Open House New York weekend, and some visitors were even decked out in their vintage TWA attire (and a couple in replica attire). The disused terminal was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, completed in 1962 (after his death), and served passengers until 2002. Its lines are truly a wonder. James Steven, manager of physical plant and redevelopment at JFK, said that when Saarinen designed it, he gave it to his engineers, who asked him how to make it work; Saarinen is said to have told them it wasn't his problem. There really isn't a single place in the building that isn't a complete delight.

The building, as it stands today, is a both an exterior and interior city landmark. It was where passengers would check in, grab food, get their shoes shined, have drinks, or just sit around before walking up the iconic flight tubes to their gates. Currently, it costs about $2 million a year to operate ($1 million for electricity, etc. and $1 million for security) and it's empty. But the Port Authority hopes it has a bright future ahead. They are awaiting a proposal to put two hotel towers alongside the flight tubes and re-open the terminal building as a restaurant and lounge area. Steven said he hopes to receive a proposal in about two weeks. Donald Trump has reportedly checked out the site, but Steven would not say who the developer is. The hotel would be 300 rooms total and boutique in style. He would love to have a lease in place by early next year. That means this weekend's event may have been the last time the terminal will be completely free and open to the public.


—Evan Bindelglass is a local freelance journalist, photographer, cinephile, and foodie. You can e-mail him, follow him on Twitter @evabin, or check out his personal blog.
· All TWA Terminal coverage [Curbed]
· All Open House New York coverage [Curbed]