We had the incredible fortune of seeing Eero Saarinen’s masterpiece, the old Terminal 5 at JFK—and we had it to ourselves. It’s a space that evokes all the romanticism, transcendence and promise that travel offers.
Jim Steven, Physical Plant & Redevelopment Manager at the Port Authority, was gracious enough to give us a behind-the-scenes tour including the lounge and bar areas, check-in desks and even the luggage carousels (because they aren’t landmarked, they haven’t been restored and so seem stopped in time, circa 2001, when the terminal closed). The Flight Center was obsolete by the time it was finished in 1962 and went through countless renovations and alterations as TWA tried to adapt the building to its needs and increasing air traffic and travellers.
Landmarked in 1994, it has been carefully restored by the Port Authority working with Beyer Blinder Belle. It’s clear that everyone involved in the project understands what a special building it is; their enthusiasm and excitement both restored my faith in (quasi-) government agencies and reminded me of design’s capacity to inspire and move us.
The PA is currently in negotiations with a team proposing an adaptive reuse as a boutique hotel.