Thursday, February 7, 2008

TWA Terminal @ JFK Airport by Eero Saarinen

TWA Flight Center was the original name for the Eero Saarinen designed Terminal 5 at Idlewild Airport — later called John F. Kennedy International Airport — for Trans World Airlines. The terminal had a futuristic air; The interior had wide glass windows that opened onto parked TWA jets; departing passengers would walk to planes through round, red-carpeted tubes. It was a far different structure and form than Saarinen's design for the current main terminal of Washington Dulles International Airport, which utilized mobile lounges to take passengers to airplanes.

Design of the terminal was awarded to Detroit-based Eero Saarinen and Associates. It was completed in 1962 and is the airport's most famous landmark (as well as being a National Historic Landmark). Gates in the terminal were close to the street and this made it difficult to create centralized ticketing and security checkpoints. This building was the first airline terminal to have closed circuit television, a central p/a system, baggage carousels, an electronic schedule board and precursors to the now ubiquitous baggage weigh-in scales. JFK was rare in the airport industry for having company owned and designed terminals; other airline terminals were built by Eastern Airlines and American Airlines. Individually branded terminals included the Worldport of Pan American World Airways and the Sundrome of National Airlines.

Following American Airlines' buyout of TWA in 2001, Terminal 5 went out of service. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had proposed converting the main portion of the building into a restaurant and conference center, but some architectural critics opposed this move.

In December 2005, JetBlue, which occupies the adjacent Terminal 6, began construction of an expanded terminal facility, which will utilize the front portion of Saarinen's Terminal 5 as an entry point. The peripheral air-side parts of Terminal 5 have been demolished to make space for a mostly new terminal, which will have 26 gates and is expected to be complete by 2008. The building is under restoration and expansion by JetBlue.

Besides being well-known to JFK passengers and architectural buffs, it was also the site of filming of the Steven Spielberg movie Catch Me if You Can.


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