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Jul272013

The gorgeous TWA Terminal like you've never seen before

The gorgeous TWA Terminal like you've never seen before...

For just one day last fall, visitors were allowed inside the iconic, if dusty & closed-since-2001, Eero Saarinen TWA Terminal at JFK’s Jet Blue T5. I jumped at the chance to ride subways over an hour to experience the interior firsthand, especially since I knew it would soon be under renovation to create a – wait for it - boutique hotel. The place was in a word: mesmerizing.

Unless you were lucky enough to await your flight there back in its heyday, you’ve probably only seen the striking, white façade from that sterile elevated walkway. Completed in 1962, it was the epitome of modern architecture and reminiscent of a bird’s wings as it takes flight. It has seen better days but is holding up just fine.

 

The vaulted ceilings, endless concrete and tile curves, and hot red upholstery & carpeting combine to create a crisp, space age portal to the world. Long, tunnel-like entry hallways lead travelers on their way. Even just standing there, you feel as if you’re being propelled forward on a conveyer belt into the very future – and it looks bright.


The main hall was designed to move travelers through efficiently, but not before they note the meaning behind the big dial clock overhead and rest a bit in the sleek, sunken, red lounge area by the gigantic wall of windows that once overlooked the runways. It was civilized, achingly civilized. And I dare say inspiring.



 

The French handbag maker Longchamp even shot a promo video there this Spring to highlight their new collection but the terminal backdrop provides good competition. Click the pic below to watch supermodels Coco Rocha and Liisa Winkler as they dance through a fake security checkpoint.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHn_0LpJYL0

What I found most interesting was that, only at this particular moment, were you allowed to witness this grand ol’ dame’s ungraceful yet still beautiful transition unfolding. Observant visitors could look past the glossy veneer to be treated to countless, juicy visual moments, filled with symbolism, about the past and what would remain for the future. Here, shadows on the floor show where things once were and a dividing wall is spraypainted “stay” to advise the builders not to demo it. That JetBlue building outside sure wasn't part of the original view.

An old TWA garbage can still looks freshly minimalist against a wall of light, even though they haven’t owned the place since the 90’s.

I found this stylishly outfitted V.I.P. nook tucked away on the upper level. This modern look could have been installed yesterday or 50 years ago - it still seems one might be sucked right up into that gold vortex thing overhead.

And another sort of secret room where “who knows what but no one will talk about it” happened. I love the toilet paper unapologetically left on the chair.

Even the shoeshine seating was tiled in those perfectly round, speckled “penny” tiles and included a built-in drink coaster. Imagine!

An illuminated counter and a whole mirrored wall of Lucky Strike cigarettes and products once beckoned from the Duty Free Shop.

 

The dark and seedy looking bar where you might meet a new friend.

Remember pay phone booths? Yeah, neither do I. But here is a pair of lovely, upholstered little cubbies with the antiquated landline phones ripped out. Maybe these will become iPhone charging stations instead?

Things must change and progress is positive. As a society, we must collectively decide what is important – what stays and what goes. There has been spirited debate about this structure, notably by architects Philip Johnson and Robert A.M. Stern as proponents of preservation. The design community is especially watching to see how the renovation will be handled because buildings have meaning in so many ways; they represent some of the best ideas and talents of men. I sat down in the lounge to think about all this and take it all in one last time. When I looked down, I saw this humble electrical outlet sporting a "Good" sticker indicating that it still works. I like to think it was also an aesthetic evaluation and I wish someone had put one of those on everything that was once a part of that awesome place.

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For more information, check out Brownstoner Queens' article "Queenswalk: Come Fly with TWA to JFK, Part 3" featuring a couple of my photos above.
http://queens.brownstoner.com/2014/01/queenswalk-come-fly-with-twa-to-jfk-part-3/

June 5, 2014 | Registered CommenterGwynne

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