Photo: Courtesy of Jaunted
Off limits. That’s sadly how we know the TWA Flight centre at New York’s JFK Airport today. No flights fly from it, no passengers check in beneath its departures board, and no cocktails are pushed across the bar of the Lisbon Lounge…any longer.Click here to tour the terminal >
Unless you’re renting out the entire space for a big-budget event or photoshoot (as Banana Republic recently did for their fall/winter 2012 ads), there’s no way inside…with the exception of one day when the Flight centre is opened, for free, to the public during the openhousenewyork (OHNY) festival.
This last weekend may have been the 10th anniversary of OHNY, but it’s only the second year the TWA Flight centre has participated. The first year obviously went well enough as they extended the hours for 2012, which nicely thinned the crowd to make for ideal photography and a mood that approached conviviality. To put it simply, it just seemed like everyone was truly enjoying being there.
A confession. In 2011, with far fewer open hours and the frustration that comes from constantly waiting for others to take photos, I wasted much time with my camera to my face. This year I felt I was able to actually appreciate the structure and its aura of determined transience. It is a building designed for the rushed steps of people with other places to go. Their butts were in the Eames seating of the Ambassadors Club at the same time as their thoughts were already across the Atlantic.
This building, which would have been one of many terminals on a typical travel itinerary, basically pole-vaulted over that piece of brain where you store hotel room numbers, parking garage section alphabet letters and other bits of travel minutiae, to file itself in the long-term memory bank. It really did. It has made such an impression over the decades—even while completely closed to the public since 2001—that hundreds of people spent their entire Sunday with it, some even flying in for the privilege.
Although JetBlue merely opens the doors connecting their terminal and that of TWA’s (but does not sponsor the event), the airline enjoys some secondary brand interaction. Most visitors streamed down the “tubes,” as the connecting halls are lovingly called, and these directly link with the baggage claim area within JetBlue’s own Terminal 5. Therefore, all these architects, design aficionados and general cool kids who visited the Flight centre had to begin their journey to Saarinen’s masterfully constructed temple of vintage aviation with a visit first to the Gensler-built house of modern aviation (JetBlue Terminal 5).
Above are both photo galleries from my visits, 2011 and 2012. Fingers crossed that, next year, a third chance arrives and, with it, even more evidence of continued restoration.
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