An American classic prepares for lift off once more

Nick Myall
24 Jul 2018

Featuring a prominent wing-shaped shell roof over the headhouse and unusual tube-shaped red-carpeted departure-arrival corridors, Eero Saarinen’s TW Flight Center is being reborn as a hotel

A classic airport building from the golden age of air travel, the long-vacant TWA Flight Center at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York is being meticulously restored and expanded to become a new TWA Hotel. Designed to capture the romance and glamour of the Jet Age, the hotel will open again in 2019. 

Also known as the Trans World Flight Center, the  original building opened in 1962 as the original terminal for Trans World Airlines at New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport. Following TWA's continued financial deterioration during the 1990s and the eventual sale of its assets to American Airlines, the terminal ended operations in October 2001.

The building was originally designed by world-famous Finnish modernist architect Eero Saarinen and the flight centre is now being restored by Beyer Blinder Belle.

Commenting on the project Richard Southwick, FAIA, director of historic preservation at Beyer Blinder Belle said: “Two new six-story hotel buildings will flank and provide a backdrop to the historic Flight Center, adding 505 rooms as well as an observation deck and rooftop infinity pool, conference center, and other gathering places. The hotel curtainwall is triple-glazed and consists of seven layers of glass for high energy efficiency and insulation against jet noise. An off-grid cogeneration plant that will produce all the power for the complex. The project is targeting LEED Gold designation.”

Southwick went on to say: “The adaptive reuse of the iconic Flight Center will build on Beyer Blinder Belle’s previous work there, which involved the stabilization of the original structure and removal of additions that detracted from the building’s historic 1962 appearance. Now the design team is replacing the nearly 500 panes of custom-sized glass that make up the building exterior as well as restoring historically significant interiors. These include the two “tubes” that connect the building to the boarding areas.”

According to Architect Magazine, four terminal lounge areas are being returned to their former midcentury modern glory, as is the hotel lobby. The design team ordered some 10 million penny tiles, a distinctive aspect of Saarinen’s interior, and are restoring the cherry-red upholstery and carpeting, as well as adding other period furnishings (including pieces designed by Charles and Ray Eames). Also being restored are the Solari-designed split-flap boards that once listed departures and arrivals: They can now be customized with messages for hotel guests via an app.

Nick Myall

News editor

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