Photographs of the old TWA flight center that was considered a shrine to minimalist design, 1962

Eero Saarinen's quaint air terminal for TWA at New York's JFK International Airport was sculpted into an abstract symbol of flight. Unlike most air terminals, which seemed intended to frustrate passengers, Saarinen not only lifted spirits but also demonstrated that concrete structures can actually be delightful.

Saarinen himself described this intriguing building as one "in which the architecture itself would express the drama and excitement of the journey ... a shape deliberately chosen to emphasize the upward-moving quality of the line."

Initially known as the Trans World Flight Center, TWA Airport Terminal emerged as one of several stand-alone terminals that made up the original Idlewild Airport (now JFK International) in Queens, a borough of New York City.

Dynamics in TWA terminal, reinforced-concrete constructions by Eero Saarinen and Associates became the culminating work in Saarinen's quest for sculptural expression. The architect died during emergency neurosurgery in 1961, a year before the terminal building opened.

Saarinen came to worldwide prominence with the completion of the General Motors Technical Center (1955) in Warren, Michigan, commissioned in 1956 from the Trans World Airlines Company.

The airline company wanted something bolder than Saarinen for its New York terminal, hoping that its masterpiece would similarly represent the airline's position as an industry leader.

The Saarinen team began designing the form for the terminal in February 1956. Although the site assigned to TWA was not the airline's first choice for Idlewild Terminal, the design team took advantage of the site to design a highly visible terminal.

To model the roof of the TWA terminal, Saarinen's team created several models made of wire, cardboard, and clay. In addition to the approximately 130 potential plans made by the Saarinen Office for the terminal, contractors provided hundreds of drawings of their own. Cross-section and contour maps were also generated. It took about 5,500 man-hours to make the drawings.

Construction began in June 1959, involving 14 engineers and 150 workers. When Eero Saarinen died unexpectedly of a brain tumor in 1961, his colleagues, lead designers Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo, formed Roche-Dinkaloo, which worked to complete the building.

The TWA had a prominent wing-shaped thin shell roof supported by four "Y" shaped piers. The design incorporates elements of futuristic, neo-futurist, gooey and sumptuous architectural styles.

The form, or layout, of the TWA Flight Center's head house is designed to relate to its small wedge-shaped site, with walkways and gates placed at acute angles.

According to his colleague Kevin Roche, Saarinen described the head house form as a "Leonardo da Vinci flying machine". There are two departure-arrival passenger tubes originating from the head house which run south-east and north-east.

The TWA Flight Center was one of the first to use enclosed passenger jetways, which extended from a "gate structure" at the end of each tube. In the original plans, the aircraft would be accessible via the "flight wing", a single-storey building that passengers would walk through at ground level.

Inside was an open three-level space with tall windows that enabled views of the departing and incoming jets. Two tube-shaped red-carpet departure-arrival corridors run out from the terminal, joined by gates.

The TWA Flight Center incorporated several innovations upon its completion, including closed circuit television, a central public address system, baggage carousel, electromechanical split-flap display schedule boards and baggage scales, and satellite clustering of gates away from the main terminal. . The intermediate level consists of an area on the east side, where travelers could have originally seen the tarmac.

The ticket counter and baggage claim areas were placed at ground level on the other side of the curbside canopy to maximize the convenience of passengers. A sculpted marble information desk rose from the floor as a single slab.

A concrete balcony on the upper floor extends from the lower floor to the central stairway to the intermediate level. TWA operates its Ambassador Club on the northern (left) side of the upper floor.

Three restaurants were located in the southern (right) part of the upper floor: Constellation Club, Lisbon Lounge and Paris Café. Offices were also located on the upper level, to the north and south of the public areas.

TWA Flight Center continued to operate as an air terminal until 2001. Its design received much critical acclaim; Both the interior and exterior of the Head House were declared a New York City Landmark in 1994, and were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

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