The Governor of New York, acting unilaterally for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, announced the formal approval of a lease deal to turn the iconic TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy Airport into a hotel complex. That’s GOOD NEWS!!!
First, the deal details and then the WHY?
The lessee is Flight Center Hotel LLC, a partnership of MCR Development and JetBlue Airways Corporation. FCH has committed to preserving the Eero Saarinen creation. The final version will include 505 rooms, 40,000 square feet of meeting space, restaurants, a spa and a 10,000-square-foot observation deck. The complex will feature two six-story hotel towers and an energy management system that will allow the building to generate its own power.
Public buildings, much less airport terminals, are rarely edifices of great architecture. There appear to be sound reasons why these structures are rarely on lists of must see linear sculpture; for example
- The visitors rarely have time to dwell on the design;
- The vistas are frequently so cluttered that they are hard to admire from a distance;
- The height, a primary dimension from which artistic expression can be drawn, is limited for safety reasons;
- The tenants are far more conscious of costs than stressing beauty;
- They are heavily trafficked facilities which tend to wear on architectural details;
- From a basic design perspective, the #1 goal is flow and utility; some of the architectural flourishes result in unusual space and/or reduce the capacity to move passengers.
So keeping an iconic airport terminal makes tremendous good sense. Saarinen is considered one of the greatest architects of his age (1910-1961). His signature was “his neofuturistic style according to the demands of the project: simple, sweeping, arching structural curves or machine-like.” [Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen and Donald Albrecht (eds), Eero Saarinen. Shaping the Future (2006)].
His most recognized achievements include:
- Berkshire Music Shed, at Tanglewood, Massachusetts, 1940
- Dulles Airport, at Chantilly, Virginia, 1958-62
- Gateway Arch, at St. Louis, Missouri, 1961-66 (designed 1947)
- General Motors Technical Center, at Warren, Michigan, 1946-55
- IBM Research Building, at Yorktown, New York, 1957-61
- John Deere and Company, at Moline, Illinois, 1963
- Kresge Auditorium, at Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1950-55
- Kresge Chapel, at Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1955
- North Christian Church, at Columbus, Indiana, 1959-63
- TWA at New York, at New York, New York, 1956-62
- Yale Hockey Rink, at New Haven, Connecticut, 1956-58
- Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, at New York City, 1959-62
- CBS Building, at New York City, 1961-64
Congratulations to the PANYNJ for such a win/win solution.