Mark Byrnes is a former senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
The Eero Saarinen-designed TWA Flight Center is finally, maybe, getting a second life.
The famous TWA Flight Center at New York's JFK airport was once the ultimate symbol of the jet age. The Eero Saarinen-designed building opened in 1962, and was an instant, award-winning architectural icon. Robert A.M. Stern went as far as to call it the "Grand Central of the jet age."
Unfortunately, its futuristic look didn't translate to the 21st century. It closed in 2001, when Trans World Airways ceased operations. It occasionally reopens for special events, hosting open houses and, briefly, an art gallery that was promptly vandalized and shuttered.
Now, after years of dithering, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has finally settled on a developer for the site. Balazs Properties will turn it into a Standard brand hotel and conference center with restaurants, stores, and a flight museum. Officials are still in the early stages of planning, with no opening date or designs yet announced.
A typical day at the terminal when TWA was still in business (circa 1993).
The Port Authority has long tried to bring the TWA terminal back to life. They first proposed a restaurant and conference center surrounded by one or two new terminals, but faced opposition from the Municipal Art Society of New York and famous architects (including Stern) for compromising the spirit of the famous structure. Andre Balazs, now responsible for the building's next chapter, claims Saarinen as a "personal architectural hero" and promises his vision will be preserved.
Meanwhile, portions of the original facility were demolished for JetBlue's new terminal. It opened in 2008, and now partially encircles the old TWA facility.
No matter its condition, photographers and architecture fans find it as visually seductive as ever:
Top image courtesy Flickr user roboppy
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled Eero Saarinen's first name.