The TWA Terminal at JFK stands as maybe the last vestige of the golden age of flying. It is a spectacular design both inside and out by architect Eero Saarinen; it opened in 1962 and closed for good in 2001, just after 9/11. The exterior was designed to look like an eagle and the inside, well, the inside is space age all the way and reminiscent of The Jetsons.
Thankfully, it’s a city landmark so it cannot be torn down and will someday be turned into a hotel or so they say.
For the last decade, the terminal has been opened only a handful of times after being renovated by JetBlue which operates out of the adjacent Terminal 5. Sunday was one of those days; the terminal became a showpiece for visitors — not flyers — as part of the city’s Open House New York weekend when dozens of buildings and structures, normally closed to the public, are thrown open for all to see.
I’ve always loved the TWA Terminal. When I got my drivers license and then car in 1972, I made a special trip out to the TWA Terminal. I wasn’t even flying, just visiting to see what air travel was all about. Yes, it was a long time ago.
But there is something magical about the building. Stepping inside, one feels comforted and almost giddy. Is that because of the design or because you know you’re not rushing to catch a plane? Hard to say but there is no stress inside these curved walls. I was struck by how light it was inside given that not a single light was on; it was lit completely by the natural light pouring in. Everything was smaller, more economical and you had to love the waiting area with its soft, cushioned red seats where one could rest with sunshine pouring in. There was not an annoying announcement or television blaring anywhere in sight.
Modern air terminal managers could learn a few things about how to put travelers at ease. They ought to be required to come here and study what is a landmark of design. If nothing else, maybe they’ll understand they should at least shut off the noise that assaults every air passenger these days.