TWA Terminal

Added by Lindsey Schweinberg, last update: August 17, 2012, 12:50 pm

TWA Terminal
John F. Kennedy International Airport
Queens, NY 11430
United States
40° 38' 45.0168" N, 73° 46' 39.5652" W
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Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Transport/Communications (TRC)
Secondary classification:
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):
History of Building/Site
Original Brief:
Dates: Commission / Completion:design period(s): 1956-1959, design presented to public in 1957, start of site work: 1959, completion/inauguration: 1962
Architectural and other Designer(s): Architect(s): Eero Saarinen & Associates (Eero Saarinen and Kevin Roche) Other designer(s): Ralph Yeakel, resident architect Consulting engineer(s): Kenneth Morris, project engineer Building contractor(s): Grove Shepherd Wilson & Kruge
Others associated with Building/Site: Original owner(s)/patron(s): Port Authority of New York & New Jersey/Trans World Airlines
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s): Type of change: alteration/renovation/restoration/extension/other: adaptation in expansion of the Jet Blue Terminal Date(s): demolition began July 1, 2005 (e)iii, construction began in December 2005 Circumstances/reasons for change: In 2001, the TWA Terminal was closed because the airline went out of business.v After sitting vacant, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey proposed to restore and adapt the TWA Terminal in the expansion of the airport. Effects of changes: In 2004, an agreement was reached to restore and adapt the TWA Terminal in the expansion of the Jet Blue terminal. The original building is to remain a centerpiece, although it likely will not be operated as a passenger terminal and will likely lose its “wings.” Persons/organizations involved: The agreement was reached between the Port Authority, the Federal Aviation Administration, the New York State Historic Preservation Office and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. The construction is being managed by Turner Construction. Arup is the planner and design manager. Gensler is the terminal Architect. DMJM Harris is the airside/landside civil engineers
Current Use: Comments: Beginning in July 2005, the TWA Terminal is being incorporated into the expansion of the Jet Blue Terminal at JFK Airport.
Current Condition: Comments:The TWA Terminal is currently under construction
General Description:

The terminal encompasses some early airport technology and advancements during the dawning of commercial jet travel, including the “satellite plan”, jetways, and baggage carousels. In the satellite plan, the “aircraft gates are clustered around structures built on the runway ramp away from the main terminal.” The form of the building itself invokes the act of flying with its “wings” and implied upward motion. The building is created “by four intersecting vaults separated by narrow bands of skylights and supported on four Y-shaped piers,” and “has an upward soaring quality.” The concrete structure “required special engineering and construction methods.”

Construction Period:
Original Physical Context:

Name(s) of surrounding area/building(s): Jet Blue Terminal Building
Other relations: The Jet Blue Terminal Building is currently under construction. During its construction, the TWA Terminal has been partially demolished, and renovated. The Jet Blue structure sits next to the TWA Terminal, connected via pedestrian tubes. The new terminal building is “meant to keep a low profile next to the Saarinen building.” Demolition on the building began in July 2005.
Construction on the TWA Terminal began in December 2005. The final steel beam of the new construction was put into place in October 2006.

Technical Evaluation:

The terminal encompasses some early airport technology and advancements during the dawning of commercial jet travel, including the “satellite plan”, jetways, and baggage carousels. The concrete structure “required special engineering and construction methods.”


The construction of the terminal took place at the beginning of the “jet age” of air travel, and incorporated new technologies that reflect this social change (including the satellite plan, jetways and baggage carousels).

Cultural & Aesthetic:
The TWA Terminal “is among the chief works of one of the most highly-regarded architectural firms of the modern era.” In designing the terminal, Saarinen created a “very distinctive and memorable building while still adhering to the master plan of the airport. The design of the building expressed Saarinen’s intention ‘to interpret the sensation of flying’ and ‘be experienced as a place of movement and transition.’” Canonical status: In the TWA Terminal, “Saarinen’s firm revolutionized air terminal design through its use of daring concrete and glass forms and technological advances, producing a distinctive and highly-acclaimed work of expressionistic architecture…”
General Assessment:
Text references:

i “Gensler to Design JetBlue Terminal for JFK,” Gensler Architects, Aug. 5, 2004, 31 Jan. 2007(
ii “Trans World Airlines Flight Center (now TWA Terminal A) at New York International Airport” Landmarks Preservation
Commission July 19, 1994.
iii Margaret Foster, “The Terminal Takes Off,” Preservation Online. 31 August 2005, 31 January 2007(
iv “JetBlue Airways Celebrates Significant Construction Milestone at JFK’s Terminal Five,” JetBlue Airways Corporation
Oct. 17, 2006, 31 January 2007 (
v “DOCOMOMO Helps Safeguard Saarinen's TWA Terminal,” AIA Architect August 2001, 31 January 3007(
vi Stephanie Stubbs, “Saarinen’s TWA Terminal and the Moment of Truth,” AIA Architect September 2001, 31 January 2007(

Recorder/Date: name of reporter: Rachel Helmke address: 264 W. 121st St. #4F New York, New York 10027 telephone: 210-724-4692 e-mail:
P.O. Box 230977
New York, NY 10023
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