What is it? Only the most beautiful airport terminal ever built. Sure, Norman Foster’s Chek Lap Kok creation is a lightfilled peach, but the Trans World Flight Center, with its swooping white wing-like roof, is something else. Built in 1962 as a hub for Trans World Airlines (TWA; now merged with American Airlines) at John F Kennedy (then Idlewild) Airport in New York and christened “the Grand Central of the Jet Age”, it oozes Mad Men-era chic. It was shuttered in 2001, but a painstaking multimillion-dollar restoration job has just been completed, taking the building back to its original splendour.
Why was it left as a store room for a decade, then? Eero Saarinen’s breathtaking architecture was the building’s undoing. The Finn’s style is known as “Googie” – a singularly American variant of modernism that evokes the heady days of the 1960s. The design didn’t allow for modifications or expansion, however, and when security checkpoints were brought in after hijackings in the 70s the terminal couldn’t cope and was eventually shut down and ignored.
What if I want a night of Mad Men magic with my own Don Draper or Joan Holloway? You’re in luck. A boutique hotel is to open – but JetBlue Airways and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey remain tight-lipped about who will run it and batted away questions from Post Magazine. One thing’s for sure, though – it will be every bit as cool as this building deserves: a 60s vibe is all but guaranteed. Andre Balazs (owner of The Standard group and Los Angeles’ Chateau Marmont), Donald Trump, Yotel and W Hotel owner Starwood have all cased the building.
What will I be able to do to kill time in the terminal? The Lisbon Lounge bar and the Paris Café – the two original hangouts for a Martini – are also being resurrected, bringing with them the glamour of a bygone era of aviation. No Dunkin’ Donuts here.
So can you fly from it? Yes and no. JetBlue now owns the building, but there wasn’t enough room for all its planes, so the company built a brand new terminal round the outside of it. Now the restoration has been completed, JetBlue selfservice check-in machines have appeared and travellers are once again using the Trans World Flight Center. But rather than emerging on the windy JFK apron after passing through the legendary red carpeted “tubes”, they pass into the new Terminal 5 and from there board their modern A319 aircraft. The terminal is still eerily empty – the new check-in area, bars and, of course, that hotel won’t be up and running until early in the new year. The Trans World Flight Center is at John F Kennedy International Airport, New York City, the United States.