UP, UP AND AWAY!
Opened in 1962 at New York City’s then Idlewild Airport (renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport the following year), Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen’s Trans World Airlines (TWA) Flight Center soared as a terminal of dreams before being grounded by time and progress.
Preservationists intervened to save the landmark headhouse, which had been threatened with demolition even before being mothballed in 2001 following TWA’s demise. In 2014, New York-based MCR Hotels, now the fourth largest hotel owner-operator in the U.S., announced a bold plan to restore and relaunch the terminal as the centerpiece of the TWA Hotel (One Idlewild Drive. Tel: 212-806-9000. www.twahotel.com).
Saarinen, whose other works include the St. Louis Arch and D.C.’s Dulles International Airport, defied gravity in designing his giant curvilinear bird. Using an intricate scaffolding scheme, he fluidly formed the building from 5,500 tons of poured concrete supported by four buttresses without columns or a single right angle.
Every penny shows in MCR’s roughly $300 million revival of this aviation cathedral, including some 20 million custom-made white penny tiles in three sizes used to reface the terminal’s curvaceous floors and surfaces.
To restore the famed Solari departures board, the team called on skilled hands at the historic company’s headquarters in Italy. The heartshaped sunken lounge, where fans greeted the Beatles in 1965, and the two elongated passenger tubes, which link the building with JetBlue Terminal (T5), blaze anew in Saarinen’s chili pepper red.
Originally outfitted by Parisian designer Raymond Loewy, of the contoured Coca-Cola bottle fame, the Paris Café and adjacent Lisbon Lounge reoccupy their former expansive second-level spaces as updates from Michelin-starred celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.