TWA HOTEL TAKES SHAPE

By Hans Baldauf, FAIA

In previous blog posts I have written about the early years at John F. Kennedy Airport - the elegance of flight in the 1960's - and mourned the loss of the Pan Am Worldport and I.M. Pei's National Terminal. It was therefore thrilling to be able to tour the TWA Hotel under construction while at the AIA convention in mid-June.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has spent over a decade to attract the hotel developer to create a destination and conference hotel which uses Saarinen's Hotel as its lobby and public spaces. A large ballroom is located below grade just outside the main window wall on the runway side of the building. The presence of the airplane is to be achieved through the placement of a Lockheed Constellation on top of the roof of the ballroom.

The Port Authority worked as part of the creation of the Jet Blue Terminal to create the opportunity for two hotel "wings" between the original terminal and the new terminal. The original "tubes" that led to the gates would provide access to the hotel wings and to the Jet Blue terminal.

Now rising on the site is the hotel, developed by MCR and MORSE Development and designed by Beyer Blinder Belle, which realizes the vision of the reuse of this iconic site - walking through Saarinen's original terminal is as jaw-dropping as it was when I first experienced the space as a child. The small penny tiles on the floor wrap up the side of the walls to create a continuity of surface that creates space that is both simple and complex, and not unlike Borromini's St. Ivo in Rome. The new glass that has been installed in truly clear - devoid of the later eras of films - and one can imagine the beautiful Constellation sitting outside.

The original restaurants - the Lisbon Lounge and Park Cafe (above), designed by Raymond Lowey, set the standard for elegant airport design that was sadly lost over the decades that followed. BCV is fortunate to have been part of a renaissance in airport food service through our work with our longtime collaborator and client Tastes on the Fly (formerly D Lew Enterprises). In previous posts I noted some of the award-winning designs that my partner Chris von Eckartsberg has created with Tastes. These have been followed by further concepts like Samovar Tea Bar + Cafe, the recently opened San Francisco Giants Clubhouse and the soon-to-open Mustards Grill (in collaboration with famed Napa chef Cindy Pawlcyn).

The rebirth of the TWA Flight Center as the TWA Hotel signals the definitive returns of the airport as an opportunity to experience design and drama.

Read more about our thoughts on the history and transformation of the TWA Flight Center in our previous blog post, Food for Flight