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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.