When it was completed and opened in 1962, the TWA Terminal at New York’s JFK Airport was heralded as a futuristic beacon for the jet age. More than 50 years later, the jet age is in ruins and its quintessential monument long stuck in limbo. Its sentence, however, appears to be over: News has it that Eero Saarinen’s landmark building will be rehauled as–what else?–a luxury hotel.
Hotelier Andre Balazs of Standard fame will transform the site into the Standard, Flight Center. According to a Page Six report, the Port Authority handpicked Balazs to develop the Saarinen head house for future use.
“It is a great honor to be entrusted with the preservation and revitalization of this masterpiece by my personal architectural hero,” Balazs told Page Six at the time of the press announcement. For its part, the Port Authority promises that it will ensure the preservation of Saarinen’s architectural vision while working with Balasz Properties to create a “one-of-a-kind hotel and conference center in the heart of JFK’s central terminal area.”
The news isn’t particularly surprising. The structure was previously being renovated by the Port Authority in conjunction with JetBlue, which made it the gem in the airline’s Terminal 5, or T5, development when it opened in 2008. (The building’s gull-wing profile even graced JetBlue’s logo.) JetBlue, however, failed to incorporate the terminal in its greater T5 complex. Initial plans to retrofit the building as a time machine/the greatest checkout portal ever came to naught. By 2011, the Port Authority was actively courting big-shot developers like Balazs and even Donald Trump, selling the place as the perfect outlet for a boutique hotel.
At the moment, the Port has yet to review, let alone sign off on, Balazs’s plans for TWA. Saarinen’s building hasn’t seen occupants since TWA closed the place in 2001, apart from a few parties and atrocious art exhibitions. In the last few years, the erstwhile terminal was opened briefly to the public who, for a few hours, marveled at the glamorous architecture. Today, half a century since its conception and realization, its design is undeniably quaint, even naive. The aura has gone yet the biomorphic shell remains. Can it be animated once again?
[Images: TWA Flight Center via Wikipedia]