When arriving at the airport, the only thing you want to do is grab your luggage and get out of there. True, there have been some quite honorable efforts in recent years. But still, a lot of airports around the world look the same and are boring places. JFK is no exception.

But in your hurry to get home or to your hotel, you might have noticed this singular building next to Terminal 5.

The Trans World Airline Flight Center, TWA, was designed by Eero Saarinen and opened in 1962, one year after his death. It was used until 2001. New terminals were built around it to accommodate the ever growing number of passengers.

Saarinen wanted to emphasize the “excitement of travel”. Those were indeed the times where going to the airport was already part of the adventurous travel experience. Nowadays, maybe all too often, airport terminals stand for long cues, lost luggage, over-bookings and cancellations. The sixties were the times where airports still had “human” proportions.

Organic forms are commonplace in 21st century architecture. Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry are only two examples of this. But at its inauguration, Saarinen’s project was revolutionary.

With its slender and aerodynamical shape it looks like a vessel from outer space, a vision of the future, a time and place where no man had ever gone before. The 21st century?

It surely stirs the imagination. TWA rises from the depths of the ocean, like a giant sting ray. It’s a bird spreading its wings, ready to take flight,…

The terminal is symmetrical in and outside. Compared to Hadid’s or Gehry’s amorphous structures, this symmetry in Saarinen’s building even strengthens the feeling of an organic force,  just as the familiar symmetry in other living creatures and organisms.

The TWA Terminal is being restored to its original splendor. In the near future it will open its doors to the public.  The main hall will function as the lobby for a new adjacent hotel. It will be a place to dine before or after your flight. Or just a place to linger, relax, look around and take it all in, the genius of Saarinen.


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  1. Great building; very well captured; thanks for sharing.

  2. dianaed2013 says:

    So interesting – I just love he shapes and smooth lines – great that you took time to photograph this

  3. Wonderful images! I just want to sit in an Eero Saarinen Womb Chair and enjoy them. I went to the terminal two years ago to photograph it at OHNY. I love Eero Saarinen. He actually designed the original IBM World Headquarters here in Armonk, NY.

    • I know you went, I saw your pictures! And it was also you who recommended I’d go! And glad I finally did. It’s a wonderful building for sure. In a way it’s a pity it can not stand on its own, somewhere far away from all the other drab buildings. But also like this we get to see it from time to time.
      I am starting to realize how much Saarinen did! Just learned he also did the arch in St Louis!

  4. That’s pretty amazing, I didn’t know about it. Have to check it out next time I’m in the city.

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