Terminal Trans-formation

In the United States, you have what are known as the Big Four airlines: American, Southwest, Delta, and United. According to Statistica, these carriers account for two-thirds of America’s commercial flights. Not so long ago, the Big Four were American, Eastern, Trans World (TWA), and United. Eastern folded its wings in 1991; TWA a decade later.  But TWA left an iconic legacy structure behind. Welcome to JFK International’s Terminal 5.

JFK International Airport’s “Terminal 5”

If you’re flying to New York City, LaGuardia Airport is just a hop, skip, and a landing from Manhattan.  For my money I prefer JFK International, ten miles to the south, if only for the chance to visit Terminal 5. “T5”, as it’s known today, embraces one of the most unique airport buildings in the world – the TWA Flight Center.  We’re lucky it’s still standing.

Go back to the first photo of T5.  Doesn’t it look like a giant, white B-2 Stealth Bomber draped over the rest of the building?  That part of the structure – or the “head house” as it’s called – was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen as the TWA Flight Center. Would you have guessed it was constructed in the 1960s?  I think it looks decidedly more modern.

You can tell how dramatic the interiors of the Flight Center are without even stepping inside.  Those window walls at both ends are two stories tall.  The soaring “bomber” thin-shell concrete roof is shouldered at its corners by massive Y-shaped piers, allowing for the uninterrupted gathering space within.  The Flight Center was the first terminal to introduce concourses and jetways to airport design, allowing passengers to board an airplane without having to drop down to ground level first.

Washington D.C.’s Dulles International Airport

Saarinen’s most famous designs feature similar swoops and curves.  He gave the main terminal at Dulles International Airport the same look.  He served on the advisory board for the design of the Opera House in Sydney, Australia.  But his best-known work towers over St. Louis (coincidentally, TWA’s headquarters city): the Gateway Arch.  Sadly, Saarinen saw none of these structures to completion, passing away in 1961 at the age of 51.

St. Louis’s Gateway Arch

So if TWA is long gone, why is the Flight Center still around? Because it’s been transformed into a wholly different animal.  Yes, you’ll find the typical mix of concourses, gates, and restaurants you see at most airports – the so-called “T5” aspect of the building.  But the Flight Center itself – the head-house – has been converted into a kitschy hotel, with hundreds of rooms, a central lounge between the window walls, and a cocktail bar inside a restored Lockheed Constellation airliner.  Brass light fixtures, rotary phones, and bright red carpet evoke the heyday of TWA.  They’ve even retained the mechanical split-flap display board used to advertise arriving and departing flights.

“Trans-formed” into the “TWA Hotel”

Architecture is an important part of a culture, a museum of pieces placed here and there in the landscape.  Preserving those pieces takes time, money, and sometimes, the gamble to repurpose.  The TWA Flight Center may now be referred to as the TWA Hotel, but it’ll always be Eero Saarinen’s masterpiece.

Now for the latest on LEGO Fallingwater…


LEGO Fallingwater – Update #5  (Read how this project got started in Perfect Harmony)

Today we spent landscaping “outdoors” around the foundation of the house.  40 pages (or 44%, or 136 minutes) into the build, this is what we have:

The fourteen trees on the Fallingwater model property are each nothing more than one small green LEGO cube snapped on top of another one.  Compare this basic look to LEGO’s more recent take on growees, as in blogger Andrew’s View of the Week’s LEGO Flower.  Slightly more realistic, wouldn’t you say?

At least we’re seeing a portion of the house itself begin to emerge.  We’ve built a bridge over the stream (back right), and we’re starting construction on one wing of the house – the piece you see in front of the model.

Tune in next Thursday as construction continues!  Now for another nod to Frank Lloyd Wright…

R. W. Lindholm Oil Company Service Station

No commission is to big or too small for an architect, which is why Wright put his signature on a gas station, very close to the time he was designing Fallingwater.

R. W. Lindholm Service Station

The Lindholm Service Station was part of Wright’s vision of Broadacre City, a utopian community planned for a four-square-mile property in Cloquet, MN.  The Service Station fueled automobiles, yes, but also encouraged residents to gather in its upper space for what Wright envisioned as “… neighborhood distribution center, meeting place, restaurant… or whatever else is needed.”  The cantilevered copper roof and band of glass windows is vintage Wright.  The angular end of the roof canopy points to the St. Louis River as a symbolic nod to river transport.

The Lindholm Service Station is the only part of Broadacre City ever constructed, is included on the National Register of Historic Places, and is open to the public… to fill up your car, of course.

Some content sourced from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation website, and  Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

Author: Dave

Three hundred posts would suggest I have something to say… This blog was born from a desire to elevate the English language, highlighting eloquent words from days gone by. The stories I share are snippets of life itself, and each comes with a bonus: a dusted-off word I hope you’ll go on to use more often. Read “Deutschland-ish Improvements” to learn about my backyard European wish list. Try “Slush Fun” for the throwback years of the 7-Eleven convenience store. Or drink in "Iced Coffee" to discover the plight of the rural French cafe. On the lighter side, read "Late Night Racquet Sports" for my adventures with our latest moth invasion. As Walt Whitman said, “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” Here then, my verse. Welcome to "Life In A Word".

18 thoughts on “Terminal Trans-formation”

  1. I would not have known those were trees if you hadn’t said so!
    My daughter built the LEGO tulips last year and gave them to me for my birthday. I hadn’t heard about The LEGO flower bouquet – now I see that there are also Succulents, Orchids and a few others. The ultimate in LEGO trees are the Winnie the Pooh Treehouse (which I have) and the LEGO Ideas Tree House.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s almost quaint, Margy, compared to the level of detail LEGO offers today. Admittedly, when I built Fallingwater’s first tree I thought, “Really? That’s it? That’s a tree?” 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds familiar, Neil, but I have more knowledge of the handful of churches he designed in the Midwest. Now I’ll be looking out for the synagogue in my research. I do agree with you: many (if not most) FLW designs are not only unappealing to the eye, but impractical to inhabit.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That terminal does look like a B2 bomber. Back the day when I flew for business, I mostly went American or Delta as I was strictly domestic, but always wanted to fly TWA just once. Never got the chance.

    You’re making good progress there. I did enjoy building the flowers Heather got for her birthday. I just amazed what they can do with Lego these days.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your post on the LEGO Flower set me up for disappointment when I created my trees, not that I didn’t see the basic look coming. Fallingwater only has two shapes in green: a long one for the ground cover and a very small block for the trees. Fairly indicative of the look of the entire model.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve only seen TWA from afar, but the videos people post of the inside are pretty cool! I don’t like flying out of JFK because it’s such a pain to get to compared to LGA. An hour vs 25-30 mins.

    Also we finished White Lotus season 2 yesterday and enjoyed it, but it hasn’t really been cleaned up much.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Even though LaGuardia needs a makeover (at least, from the last time I flew through it) I expect it’s served by just about every airline, and you can’t beat the convenience over JFK and Newark. Truthfully, my only real opportunity to see T5 would be a long layover on an international connection to Europe through JFK. Which I’ll have to plan intentionally!

      Props for the honest assessment of White Lotus, Lyssy – I was afraid of that. Plenty of other options with streaming (we’re enjoying “The Flight Attendant” right now).


      1. They did makeover LaGuardia and it’s beautiful! Still a few terminals in process of renovating but the opened ones are so nice! It is nice we have options of 3 airports so close. I wonder if your airport would fly to atl instead. I thought about staying at twa before an early flight but it was pretty expensive for one night.

        That’s true, no shortage of good tv! I do like kaley cuoco

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah, the at-airport hotels are ridiculous expensive. They added one in Denver a few years ago and we always wanted to stay there because the rooms have a cool floor-to-ceiling slant-glass design (like the Luxor in Vegas), but I’ll pass on the $400/night rate. The flight options at our little airport in nearby Augusta, GA seem to vary according to demand. Delta flies to Atlanta while American flies to Charlotte and Dallas, but all of those options can be really expensive. Better to save a few dollars and drive the couple hours to Charlotte, Atlanta, or Charleston instead.


  4. Such interesting stuff you share here. I never knew Eastern was an airline, nor did I know TWA twas no more. (Heh.) And, yes, a giant white stealth bomber. I love that they’re retained a lot of the history there,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just realized what you did with “twas” there, Betsy – NICE!!! Eastern must’ve only flown up and down the East Coast because I didn’t know much about them growing up in California. As for TWA, I’m pretty sure I flew them a time or two as a kid. My mother dressed my brothers and me in our Sunday best because, well, that’s how you were supposed to look on an airplane in the 1970s!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. SO crazy that dressing up for flights was a thing back in the day. Sort of sad that it no longer is, but also, I would way rather wear jeans and a t-shirt than a dress on a flight, so…
        Thank you for catching “twas.” 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post, Dave! I learned so many things. Architecture is AMAZING. Good progress on Falling Water. It is so simple compared to the Grand Piano. I hope after this you do something more in line with the piano… so many intricate parts.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As I mentioned the other day in comments, I always learn something in your posts Dave. I was in the JFK terminal back in the 60s on my first international flight. I went with my father to Germany in 1969, but we flew Lufthansa not TWA. I’ve really not thought a lot about airports, but coincidentally, this morning I began the book “The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland” and learned about the history of that small town’s airport during WWII and how it accommodated 38 jetliners and 7,000 people when U.S. airspace was closed after 9/11. You’re coming along on the Lego Fallingwater nicely. Will it be displayed next to the piano when finished?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My one and only experience on Lufthansa – a business trip – was excellent, Linda. It seems the international airlines are a cut above the domestic carriers. A friend mentioned the post-9/11 Gander, Newfoundland situation and said to watch the movie. I’ll add it to my list. As for LEGO Fallingwater, it’ll be a nice keepsake but I think the Grand Piano stands alone for sheer display value.

      Liked by 1 person

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