Did you ever have a first time experience that just couldn’t be paralleled? The first time I ever got on a plane, I traveled on TWA through the Eero Saarinen designed terminal at JFK Airport. Mr. Saarinen was a remarkable architect also known for the Gateway Arch in St Louis and the Dulles airport in Washington DC.. His TWA terminal was uplifting and expansive in its feel yet cozy in human scale. So cozy in fact that by the time it was opened in 1962 it was already too small. Most airline lounge entrances are larger than the entire lounge space (the Lisbon Lounge), for instance. What it lacked in capacity it made up for in one of a kind elegance. The most jaded traveler could never confuse the TWA terminal with any other.
Many years after this first encounter, I got to take a guided tour of the terminal in construction. It was undergoing a transition from defunct terminal into a refreshed and restored new life as a hotel and bar.
Stepping through the entrance, many years and many airports visited in between, you think, “It felt bigger in my memory”. Maybe because it conjures a sense of the vastness of land and air. The grand curvaceous forms catapult in your imagination far bigger and further than the concrete and glass do. And that is a victory of transcontinental proportions for any architect.
Now, after many years laying dormant, the building has new life. Anyone can stay at the new hotel that was built behind the terminal. Beyer Blinder Belle Architects led the restoration of the terminal and LUBRANO CIAVARRA Architects designed the new hotel with soundproof floor to ceiling windows. The architects took great care in every detail to restore the building to its past glory. The sunken lounge, where travelers once sat while waiting for their planes, is now a cocktail bar where you can reserve a table. The intimate Paris Café is reborn as a restaurant by chef Jean Georges, right next to the Lisbon Lounge, which awaits you for your pre-flight cocktail. Happy travels!.