TWA Flight Center

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Trans World Airlines Flight Center
Ehemaliges TWA-Terminal am John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.JPG
The terminal's head house in 2010
TWA Flight Center is located in New York City
TWA Flight Center
TWA Flight Center is located in New York
TWA Flight Center
LocationTerminal 5, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Queens, New York 11430
United States
Area17.6 acres (7.1 ha)
ArchitectEero Saarinen and Associates; et al.
Architectural styleFuturist, Neo-futurist, Googie, Fantastic
NRHP reference #05000994[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPSeptember 7, 2005
Designated NYCLJuly 19, 1994

The TWA Flight Center, also known as the Trans World Flight Center, is an airport terminal at New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport. The terminal, which opened in 1962, was designed for Trans World Airlines by Eero Saarinen.

The original design featured a prominent wing-shaped thin shell roof over the head house, or main terminal; unusual tube-shaped red-carpeted departure-arrival corridors; and tall windows enabling expansive views of departing and arriving jets. The design straddles the Futurist, Neo-futurist, Googie and Fantastic architectural styles.[2]

Although portions of the original complex have been demolished, the Saarinen-designed head house has been renovated and is partially encircled by a replacement terminal building, which was completed in 2008. Together, the old and new buildings make up JetBlue Airways' JFK operations and have been known collectively since 2008 as Terminal 5 or simply T5. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), which operates JFK Airport, had once intended the TWA Flight Center as a ceremonial entrance to the replacement terminal. In 2016, the PANYNJ started converting the original head house into the TWA Hotel, which is slated to open in 2019.

Both the interior and the exterior were declared a New York City Landmark in 1994. In 2005, the terminal was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Noted architect Robert A. M. Stern has called the TWA Flight Center the "Grand Central of the jet age".[3] The pragmatic new encircling terminal has been called "hyper-efficient"[4] and a "monument to human throughput".[5]


1955-1962: Planning, design, & construction[edit]

Early site model showing satellite passenger piers.

While New York International Airport at Idlewild had been operating since 1939, the need and site for a Trans World Airlines (TWA) terminal was laid out in a 1955 plan in which each major airline would build its own terminal, while smaller airlines would be served from an International Arrivals Building.[6] TWA had begun flying internationally in 1946 from New York's LaGuardia Airport with flights to Paris, Lodon, Rome, Athens, Cairo, Lisbon and Madrid.[7] In 1950, as both a domestic and international carrier, the former Transcontinental and Western Airlines changed its name to Trans World Airways.[8] By 1955, TWA, being among New York's major airlines, undertook to build its own terminal at what was then commonly called Idlewild Airport.[9]

After the opening of the International Arrivals Building in 1957, the major US airlines each built their own terminals at Idlewild. United Airlines and Eastern Air Lines opened their own terminals in 1959, followed by American Airlines and Pan American World Airways (Worldport) in 1960, Northwest Airlines and TWA in 1962. The National Airlines Sundrome would be last, in 1969.[10]

Construction photo showing self-supporting thin-shell construction.

Eero Saarinen and his Detroit-based firm were commissioned in 1955 to design the TWA Flight Center.[11] Saarinen, who projected a high patronage for the terminal, conceived the terminal to speed up processes. At the same time, the bird-shaped, emblematic construction featured a harmoniously coordinated interior and references to TWA's corporate identity and thus served to convey the company's image. Saarinen planned the appearance of the building from a purely formal perspective mainly to exploit market opportunities. Thus, the TWA Terminal represents an entirely different approach than the thin concrete shells constructed at the same time. The terminal was built to span a space with a minimum of material. Saarinen, who was known as an indefatigable architect, indicated to his client that he needed more time, then took another year to resolve the design.[2] The airline, with the support of Saarinen's wife Aline, exploited the new market opportunity to carry out a most successful marketing campaign starting with the building's first public presentation on November 12, 1957.[12]

The terminal is a pioneering example of thin-shell construction, consisting of a reinforced concrete shell supported at the corners.[13] To engineer the roof, Saarinen collaborated with Charles S. Whitney and Boyd G. Anderson of the firm Ammann & Whitney. Saarinen had worked with the same team in 1953 to 1955 in executing the Kresge Auditorium and would work with them on the main terminal at Dulles International Airport [13]

From the Saarinen office, Kevin Roche, Cesar Pelli, Norman Pettula, and Edward Saad were key collaborators. Warren Platner was largely responsible for the interiors.[14] When Saarinen died unexpectedly of a brain tumor in 1961, Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo led the realization of New York's TWA Terminal.[15]

1962–2001: Original terminal[edit]

Exterior view

The completed terminal was dedicated May 28, 1962.[16][17] The same year, Saarinen won the AIA Gold Medal posthumously, having died in 1961. The airport's name was changed to John F. Kennedy International Airport in December 1963.[18]

We wanted passengers passing through the building to experience a fully-designed environment in which each part arises from another and everything belongs to the same formal world.

Eero Saarinen[19]

The terminal was one of the first with enclosed passenger jetways,[20] closed circuit television, a central public address system, baggage carousels,[20] electronic schedule board and baggage scales, and the satellite clustering of gates away from the main terminal.[20] Food and beverage services included the Constellation Club, Lisbon Lounge, and Paris Café. However, as with many terminals designed before the advent of jumbo jets, increased passenger traffic and security issues, the design proved difficult to update as air travel evolved; terminal gates close to the street made centralized ticketing and security checkpoints difficult.[21]

In 1969, the terminal received a new departure-arrival concourse and lounge. Known as Flight Wing Two, the expansion was designed by Roche-Dinkeloo to accommodate then-new wide-body aircraft, such as the Boeing 747.[21]

The City of New York designated both the interiors and the exteriors of the Eero Saarinen-designed terminal a historic landmark in 1994.[20]

A footbridge spans the terminal
Original concourse
Union News restaurants coffee shop by Raymond Loewy

2001–2005: Closure and landmark status[edit]

Following TWA's continued financial deterioration during the 1990s and the eventual sale of its assets to American Airlines, the terminal ended operations in October 2001.[22] The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) first proposed converting the head house into a restaurant or conference center, while encircling the existing building with one or possibly two new terminals. The concept received opposition from the Municipal Art Society (MAS) of New York, as well as the architects Philip Johnson and Robert A.M. Stern.[23] The opposition suggested the building, which brought passengers into immediate view of the sky and aircraft beyond, would be "strangled" if wrapped by another terminal, and that wrapping the Saarinen head house with another terminal would not preserve the spirit of the building but would mummify it "like flies in amber."[23] Philip Johnson, speaking at the 2001 presentation, said of the proposal:

In 2004, the dormant terminal briefly hosted an art exhibition called Terminal 5,[24] featuring the work of 19 artists from 10 countries.[21][25] The theme of the show featured work, lectures and temporary installations drawing inspiration from the terminal's architecture[21] — and was to run from October 1, 2004 to January 31, 2005[21] — though it closed abruptly after the building itself was vandalized during its opening gala.[11][26][27] That same year, the Municipal Art Society of New York succeeded in nominating the facility to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of the 11 Most Endangered Places in America.[24]

In 2005, the National Park Service listed the TWA Flight Center on the National Register of Historic Places.[28]

2005–present: JetBlue terminal[edit]

The JetBlue T5 reopening logo
A map of JFK T5. The original terminal, which is the headhouse, is shown in red on the left. The 2008 expansion is shown in yellow on the right.
Components of JFK T5:
Interior of the new JetBlue terminal

In December 2005, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) began construction of a new terminal facility for JetBlue Airways, which occupied the adjacent Terminal 6 and was the airport's fastest-growing carrier—behind and partially encircling Saarinen's original gull-winged building (also known as the head house[28]). Peripheral portions of the original facility were demolished to make space for a mostly new 625,000-square-foot (58,100 m2) facility designed by Gensler, including 26 gates to accommodate 250 flights per day[29] and 20 million passengers annually.[30] Originally, there were also tentative plans to renovate another portion of the original facility, a salvaged portion of the departure lounges known as The Trumpet,[31] dating from the Roche-Dinkeloo Flight Wing One addition in 1969. During the construction of the new, Gensler-designed terminal, The Trumpet was lifted and moved 1,500 ft (460 m)[32] at a cost of $895,000,[31] only to be later demolished when the project's budget prioritized renovating the head house.[28]

T5 reopened on October 22, 2008,[33] with JetBlue using an abstraction of the Saarinen terminal's gull-wing shape as the official logo for the event, an abstraction of the new terminal floor plan for the signage[28][34] and counting down the reopening via Twitter.[35] The new terminal features a 55,000-square-foot (5,100 m2) retail area with 22 food concessions and 35 specialty retail stores[29] along with free wireless Internet access, a children's play area and a 1,500-space parking garage.[35] As the first airline terminal at JFK designed after the September 11, 2001, attacks,[4][36] the new T5 now contains 20 security lanes, one of the largest checkpoints in a US airline terminal. The entry hall of the Gensler terminal wraps around the Saarinen head house in a crescent shape[28] and retains the original, iconic departure-arrival passenger tubes from the head house (Tube #1 from the 1962 Saarinen design and Tube #2 from the 1969 Roche-Dinkeloo-designed Flight Wing One).[37] While noted architect Robert A. M. Stern had called the evocative Saarinen-designed TWA Flight Center "Grand Central of the jet age",[3] the pragmatic new encircling terminal has been called "hyper-efficient"[4] and a "monument to human throughput".[5]

At the time of the T5 opening, JetBlue and PANYNJ had yet to complete renovation of the original Saarinen head house, and the building has stood empty while they decided what its future role should be. Early proposals included a conference center, an aviation museum, and a restaurant,[31] or a place to check in for flights departing from the newer JetBlue T5 building.[38]

In April 2015, The Wall Street Journal reported that JetBlue and its partner, a hotel developer, were negotiating for the rights to turn the head house into a hotel.[39] In July 2015, New York State governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed that the Saarinen building would be converted into the TWA Hotel, a new on-site hotel for the airport's passengers.[40] Construction on the TWA Hotel began in December 2016.[41] The structures on either side of the actual headhouse will be demolished (with the headhouse retained)[42] while additional structures will be built.[43] The hotel, scheduled to open in 2019, will have 505 guest rooms, 40,000 square feet of meeting space, and an observation deck of 10,000 square feet.[44]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  2. ^ a b "Reconsidering Eero". Metropolis Magazine, Paul Makovsky, September 19, 2005.
  3. ^ a b "Stay of Execution for a Dazzling Airline Terminal". The New York Times, Architecture View, Herbert Muschamp, Sunday, November 6, 1994. November 6, 1994. Retrieved May 26, 2010.
  4. ^ a b c Deirdre van Dyk (August 5, 2008). "Where JetBlue Put Its Millions". Time Magazine. Retrieved May 26, 2010.
  5. ^ a b James S. Russell (October 22, 2008). "JetBlue's New Terminal at JFK Offers Huge Capacity, No Charm".
  6. ^ Pearman, Hugh (2004). Airports: A Century of Architecture. Laurence King Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85669-356-1. Retrieved August 30, 2015.
  7. ^ "TWA History". Retrieved 1 November 2018.
  8. ^ "TWA History". The TWA Museum at 10 Richards Road. Retrieved 1 November 2018.
  9. ^ Gordon, Alastair (2014). Naked Airport: A Cultural History of the World's Most Revolutionary Structure. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-1-4668-6911-0.
  10. ^ Dunlap, David W. (1997-10-26). "A 'New' Kennedy Airport Takes Wing". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-08-18.
  11. ^ a b "A Review of a Show You Cannot See"., Tom Vanderbilt, January 14, 2005. Archived from the original on December 5, 2012.
  12. ^ Ringli, Kornel (March 22, 2013). "Eero Saarinens TWA-Terminal in New York: Beflügelter Mythos" – via NZZ.
  13. ^ a b Whitehead, Rob (2014). "Saarinen's shells: The evolution of engineering influence". Iowa State University Digital Repository: 84. Retrieved 4 November 2018.
  14. ^ Saarinen, Eero (2006). Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future. Yale University Press. ISBN 097248812X. Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  15. ^ Dameron, Amanda. "Kevin Roche on How He Got His Start—Nodding Off in an Interview With Eero Saarinen". Dwell. Retrieved 1 November 2018.
  16. ^ Klimek, Chris (August 18, 2008). "Saarinen exhibit at National Building Museum". The Examiner.
  17. ^ "Saarinen rising: A much-maligned modernist finally gets his due". The Boston Globe, Clay Risen, November 7, 2004. November 7, 2004.
  18. ^ "The Light That Does Not Fail". The New York Times. December 29, 1963. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  19. ^ "TWA Terminal"., February 19, 2009.
  20. ^ a b c d "T.W.A.'s Hub Is Declared A Landmark". The New York Times, City Room, David W. Dunlap, July 20, 1994. July 20, 1994. Retrieved May 26, 2010.
  21. ^ a b c d e "Now Boarding: Destination, JFK". The Architects Newspaper, September 21, 2004.
  22. ^ Dunlap, David W. (February 21, 2008). "Saarinen Terminal to Reopen at Kennedy Airport". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 January 2018. Except for a brief stint as an exhibition gallery in 2004, the Saarinen terminal has been closed since T.W.A. ended operations in October 2001.
  23. ^ a b David W. Dunlap (August 14, 2001). "Planning a Nest of Concrete for a Landmark of Flight". The New York Times. Retrieved May 26, 2010.
  24. ^ a b "TWA Terminal Named as One of the Nation's Most Endangered Places". Municipal Art Society New York, February 9, 2004. Archived from the original on August 12, 2009.
  25. ^ "2004, "Terminal 5: Now Closed," gallery exhibition at Colette, Paris". Rachel K. Ward,. Archived from the original on February 21, 2006.
  26. ^ Carol Vogel (October 7, 2004). "Port Authority Shuts Art Exhibit in Aftermath of Rowdy Party". The New York Times. Retrieved May 26, 2010.
  27. ^ "Art Exhibition at JFK Airport's TWA Terminal Abruptly Shut Down". Architectural Record, John E. Czarnecki,, October 11, 2004.
  28. ^ a b c d e "Saarinen Terminal to Reopen at Kennedy Airport". The New York Times, City Room, David W. Dunlap, February 21, 2008. February 21, 2008. Retrieved May 26, 2010.
  29. ^ a b "Mayor Bloomberg, Port Authority and Jetblue Cut Ribbon on New $875 Million Terminal at JFK Airport".
  30. ^ "Gensler Designing Jet Blue Terminal at JFK Airport". Architectural Record, August 10, 2004.
  31. ^ a b c Margaret Foster (March 27, 2008). "Moved Once, Saarinen's TWA Trumpet To Fall". Archived from the original on March 13, 2009.
  32. ^ Krista Walton (April 23, 2007). "Saarinen's TWA Trumpet To Move". National Trust for Historic Preservation.
  33. ^ "Travel Intel".
  34. ^ "JetBlue Airways Terminal 5 signage". Communication Arts, January 16, 2009. Archived from the original on August 10, 2009.
  35. ^ a b Micheline Maynard (October 22, 2008). "JetBlue Twitters its New Terminal". The New York Times. Retrieved May 26, 2010.
  36. ^ "Prepared for Takeoff". Architects Online, Sara Hart, December 1, 2008.
  37. ^ "JetBlue's Terminal Takes Wing". Business Week, Innovation, Andrew Blum, July 21, 2005.
  38. ^ Russell, James S. (October 23, 2008). "JetBlue's New Terminal at JFK Offers Huge Capacity, No Charm". Bloomberg.
  39. ^ Karmin, Craig (April 14, 2015). "JetBlue Wants to Turn Former TWA Terminal Into Hotel". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved April 18, 2015.
  40. ^ Governor's Press Office (July 27, 2015). "Governor Cuomo Unveils Vision for Transformative Redesign of LaGuardia Airport" (Press release). State of New York. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  41. ^ Plitt, Amy (December 15, 2016). "TWA Terminal hotel celebrates groundbreaking with a new rendering". Curbed NY. Retrieved December 26, 2017.
  42. ^ Peterson, Barbara. "TWA Terminal Hotel Construction Begins at JFK". Conde Nast Traveler. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  43. ^ "Fact Sheet for MCR Development's TWA Hotel at JFK Airport" (PDF). TWA Hotel. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-11-07. Retrieved 2017-11-07.
  44. ^ Matthews, Karen (October 12, 2017). "Hotel at iconic TWA terminal will evoke glamour of jet age". USA Today. Associated Press. Retrieved December 22, 2017.

External links[edit]

External images
TWA Flight Center: c. 1962, Departure & Arrival Board
TWA Flight Center: c. 1962, Departure & Arrival Corridor
TWA Flight Center: c. 1962, Interior View

Coordinates: 40°38′45″N 73°46′39″W / 40.645826°N 73.777539°W / 40.645826; -73.777539