In 1962, the Trans World Airlines terminal opened at JFK Airport — then called Idlewild — becoming an instant icon. Created by architect Eero Saarinen, the TWA terminal had a swooping aerodynamic design that symbolized the notion of flight.
The building also helped transform the airport experience with its endless innovations: enclosed jetways, a public address system, and baggage carousels, a rarity at the time.
I consider myself lucky that I was able to fly out of the legendary space before TWA shut down its operations and the graceful terminal closed its doors in 2001. Besides an appearance in the Steven Spielberg movie “Catch Me If You Can” and a foray into the art world when it was briefly used for a gallery installation, the terminal has remained empty, frozen in time.
So along with many other design fanatics, my heart leapt when rumors started circulating that JetBlue (which runs the neighboring Terminal 5) might help transform the landmark building into a hotel. The Wall Street Journal reported that the airline and MCR Development LLC, the seventh largest hotel owner-operator in the United States, are in deep negotiations with the Port Authority. It’s not the first time the rumor has surfaced that the terminal might be turned into a hotel: back in the fall, Donald Trump, of all people, supposedly made a bid for the buidling. And Andre Balazs, the hipster hotelier bethind the Standard Hotel brand and L.A.’s Chateau Marmont, was also in the running.
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What we love about the prospect of a JetBlue hotel is the marriage of a modern-day aviation success story with a symbol of the classic jet era. So while we wait for JetBlue to announce that it’s making a landing, let’s take a look back at the design of this architectual legacy.