TWA Hotel opens in Saarinen-designed Terminal at JFK
Eero Saarinen’s 1962 TWA terminal at what is now John F. Kennedy International Airport has always been about selling a fantasy. When it opened, it promoted the vision of its corporate patron, Trans World Airlines, for what air travel could become: an opportunity for the swelling middle classes to explore the world, to partake of the freedom, mobility and some measure of the glamour of travel that had previously been reserved for the well-to-do. And when it reopened last month as a retro hotel for well-traveled hipsters, it began selling a fantasy of what flying was supposed to have been, elegant, exciting and sexy.
Saarinen’s concrete structure, with its soaring, winglike vaulted roof, its huge fields of glass, and its thrilling interior curves, cantilevers and airy mezzanines, is one of the great buildings of the past century. With it, the architect proved the power of poetic modernism, full of whimsy and romance, and offered a reproof to the lean, functional modernism of an earlier generation of architects.
Even today as the TWA Hotel, after decades of air travel that dehumanizes passengers, Saarinen’s structure elicits delight and kindles old hopes. It is light and full of promise and it seems to offer the visitor nothing but choices, to go up the wide central stairs, down the side halls, to settle into the sun-drenched sunken lounge or wind your way up to the restaurants and bars above, to move or to sit, to explore or to dream. [read more]