After two decades as an abandoned reminder of remarkable architecture and bad timing, TWA hotel has finally opened.
With 512 new rooms in its two, new seven-story towers designed by Brooklyn architects’ Lubrano Ciavarra, the dazzlingly restored TWA Flight Center is accessed by Eero Saarinen’s red-carpeted jetways and houses the hotel atrium with lounges, bars, shops, and restaurants. Proudly stretched across the roof of one new tower is an infinity pool with top-of-the-world views of planes arriving and departing.
With the structures’ history clearly in view, New York architects Beyer Blinder Belle directed the restoration of Saarinen’s iconic architecture. As originally conceived in 1955 by Wallace Harrison, whose master plan for the then called Idlewild Airport called for stand-alone terminals wrapping around a massive traffic circle. The architectural competitiveness this formula fostered drove the creation of structures still talked about today. The American Airlines terminal by Kahn and Jacobs, which featured the world’s longest continuous cocktail lounge, was visually pitted against the 1960 Worldport for Pan Am, designed by Teppett-Abbett-McCarthy-Stratton. It was the public who won in this image-driven competition.
This was all before airline deregulation. Then airlines cared about service, style, and structures as they competed for attention with designer-clad attendants and mile-high fine dining. It has been said of Howard Hughes’s TWA that it was the most glamourous carrier in the skies and its Idlewild Flight Center was its crowned jewel.
Opened in 1962, one year after Saarinen’s death, the terminal was outdated almost from the start. Built anticipating turboprops that carried 100 passengers, when the 747 arrived packing in over 650, the jewel in Hughes’ crown was irrelevant.
But today, thanks to MCR, a New York development company headed by Tyler Morse, sexy has returned to the Flight Center. With other properties, like the High Line Hotel in Manhattan in his portfolio, he envisioned TWA ticking boxes for the nostalgic as well as the forward-thinking style aficionado.
It’s easy to get lost in the soundtrack of Sinatra classics accompanying you through the restored and new elements of the TWA Hotel. Framed this way, the Chairman has never sounded more stylish or sexy.