Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pheonix from the Flame

In celebration of Halloween today, I'd like to make an addendum to my series on JFK Airport and talk about my very first time seeing the interior of Eero Saarinen's TWA Flight Center. I've honestly lost count of how many times I'd been out there and couldn't get inside it. On various trips I didn't realize it'd been closed or had heard it had reopened and it hadn't. In fact, on this trip out, I thought I had heard the restorations had been completed, but they haven't this time, either. Presumably I'll have to go out yet again when it has been completely finished and reopened. What they meant, I suppose, is that the restoration of the main central lobby space is done, which it is. It's not open yet, but the doors were unlocked for Open House New York a few weekends ago.

I did look through music from 1962 in preparation for this visit, but I didn't have the time to rip all those songs into my computer. Instead I just loaded up Latin-esque by Juan Carlos Esquivel onto my iPod. It seemed fitting. There was one song that came out in late August, 1962 that I've always found somewhat irritating, but it's just too perfect to not mention it in this post. Apologies for the "Pickroll" if anyone feels the same. Amusingly, it may actually be the first song in history to include the sound of a bong hit.

I had seen innumerable photographs, seen floor plans and drawings, studied the model extremely carefully. Nothing came as a huge surprise. On top of that, although it may have been extremely complicated to construct, it's rather simple in form, in the ways that would matter. It's almost perfectly symmetrical. So one nice coincidence is that I'm able to quote one of my top ten movies of all time, Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980) on Halloween: " was as though I'd been here before. I mean, we all have moments of deja vu, but this was ridiculous. It was almost as though I knew what was going to be around every corner. Ooooo!" It was still magical to finally be inside what I consider to be one of the most incredible works of architecture of the entire twentieth century.

It is starting to look really beautiful, too. Already it looks noticeably better than the last time I walked around the outside of it. It sounds as if they're going to try to restore much of it back to the period when it was in its heyday as a monument to air travel, from around 1962 to 1969. So all the restaurants and cafes should look extremely groovy. They're also going to retain all reminders that this was once a TWA building. In other words, all the TWA signage will not be replaced by signs for jetBlue. They have a long way to go, but as Saarinen himself said about it being a "beautiful ruin," even in its decrepit state, barely any imagination is required at all to see how fabulously Space Age a work of architecture this is. Evidently the ticket counter wing is going to be converted into a hotel. If they do that right, staying the night there could make it totally worth having your flight cancelled.

Happy Halloween fellow architecture lovers!


All text and photos 2012, Ryan Witte.

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