Take Off for the TWA Terminal This Weekend at Open House New York

twa terminal Take Off for the TWA Terminal This Weekend at Open House New York

Welcome aboard, ladies and gentlemen.

A great deal of attention has been paid lately to vintage JFK. Thanks to that lovely show Pan Am, we got a glimpse of what Terminal 3 looked like in its glory days, rather than the leaking mess it had become in recent years. It was recently torn down so Delta, which is expanding Terminal 4, could have more space to park planes—no, not a new terminal, just a bare strip of tarmac, a glorified plane parking lot. (Maybe with the airport so congested, that’s for the best. Another terminal would mean more planes everyday, wouldn’t it?)

Then there is the still stately Terminal 6, JetBlue’s home before it took over the new Terminal 5 encircling Eero Saarinen’s revered TWA Terminal. Terminal 6 is also coming down, a soaring glass pane and concrete strut at a time. There has been much handwringing over this of late, thanks in no small part to the appearance of Christina Ricci in a blue stewardess’ garb, but as is often the case with old buildings, it is too little, too late. And we don’t even yet know what is replacing the thing.

That leaves us with the TWA Terminal and the TWA Terminal alone.For those feeling the twinge of nostalgia a little too strongly  right now (present company included), Open House New York has delivered a respite. This Sunday, October 16, Saarinen’s swan-like masterpiece will be open to the public from 1:00 to 4:00. Unlike so many Open House events, there are no reservations, so the space is unlimited. Bring the kids, bring a date!

Can’t wait? Take a tour with The Observer right now >>

Charles Kramer, an architect at Beyer Blinder Belle who oversaw the renovation of the terminal last decades, and James Steven, manager of JFK facilities at the Port Authority, will lead a talk starting at 1:00.They will be discussing the renovation and efforts to rehabilitate the space with commerce—as well as fielding angry questions about Terminal 6, The Observer imagines.

Those latter two have a lot in common. When people point to the destruction of Terminals 3 and 6 as a loss of historic airline architecture, the Port points to Terminal 5 as plenty. Not only is it the most iconic of the terminals, but the authority has had a hell of a time redeveloping the thing.

It’s given up on getting Jet Blue to use it as a fancy check-in area, which, let’s face it, even the biggest architecture buff would probably bypass in the interest of getting to the gate five minutes faster. The latest plan is to turn Terminal 5 into a luxury hotel of some sort, maybe run by Andre Balazs, Donald Trump, or some other boldface developer. It might well be the coolest Ramada Inn ever built, but considering there have been no developments in the plan for almost a year, one wonders if it is not dead, especially with innovative Port Authority director Chris Ward headed for the exits.

And so we are left with our world-renowned folly. If you’d like to get a look inside this weekend, check ohny.org for details.


  1. Edward says:

    The old Pan Am terminal at JFK was something special, and only because of an agreement I made as a photographer with the marketing dept was I able to fly first class (space available) back home to Germany, where I lived then. What made the first class terminal so cool was that there were no stand-up counters.  You walked in and sat on swivel arm chairs while they processed your ticket at very low-slung, very 60s style, counters.  A man in a suit would walk over with a roll cart filled with booze and ice and you could lubricate yourself as they processed your ticket.  On the plane in first class, they offered mountains of Malassol caviar which was served with icy vodka, then offered steak broiled right on the plane or fresh lobster. During the first Gulf war,I flew NY to Frankfurt, and they actually combined two flights that night–with a total of 16 passengers in that giant 747.  I was in first class–the only person. Four stews stood around me like sisters in mourning.  It was terribly uncomfortable–it was clear they would soon lose their jobs, and I knew this would be the end of my lovely sinecure.  I do so hope they do something respectful with the TWA terminal.  It is an architectural marvel–not as grand as Dulles, which is Saarinen’s masterpiece–but a fascinating piece of work.

  2. 727traveler says:

    Isn’t the Pan Am Worldport still there? I thought they were tearing it down next year.

  3. guest says:

    this is the worst written article. i still don’t know what is going on at jfk. good god.