I am now in the throes of 1) being thoroughly done with the restrictions and limitations brought upon my travel plans due to the pandemic 2) antsy with anticipation of resuming my adventures across the world, but 3) filled with concern and trepidation seeing the chaos of multitudes of flights being cancelled, long lines at security checkpoints and oh my the nauseating increases in the prices of airline tickets.
I have decided to wait a bit, which is excruciating, but I do not want my travel experiences to be so tainted with agita before they even commence. However, I have already made my first post-pandemic visit to the airport – but not to fly. Rather, in celebration of my recent birthday, I spent an overnight stay at one of the most kitschy hotels I have ever visited – the TWA Hotel at JFK Airport in NYC.
For those of you who are not familiar with this edifice, let me provide some history.
In 1956, TWA, under the ownership of Howard Hughes, commissioned a JFK terminal for what was at the time called Idewild Airport from Eero Saarinen, the Finnish-American architect behind the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Saarinen was known for architecture that took on sculptural forms that were rich in character and visual drama unknown in earlier years in the field. Based on a symmetrical plan (which is immensely pleasing to me) the TWA “Flight Center” was constructed with two large concert projections extending outward and upward, suggesting wings, while on the inside, sculptural supports and curving stairways evoke a feeling of movement. In this distinctive and memorable building, Saarinen presented a symbol of flight. Sadly, Saarinen’s design was for airplanes that were prevalent at the time that had a capacity of approximately 100 passengers, Very quickly, much larger aircraft came onto the scene and by 1970, only 8 years after the TWA Flight Center’s completion, the wide body planes rendered their predecessors and the TWA building, obsolete as the numbers of air travelers ballooned. Thankfully, talks of demolitions this iconic structure did not move forward, and in 1994 the TWA Flight Center became protected as a NYC landmark. On May 15, 2019, after some renovations, the TWA Hotel opened with much fanfare. Most of the elements originally conceived by Saarinen are still evident, down to the Chili Pepper Red color he developed specifically for the center, from the upholstery in the Sunken Lounge to the hallway carpeting in the hotel buildings. Here are some pictures to illustrate:
This last photo is the interior of “The Connie” – a restored 1958 Lockheed airplane which after retiring from TWA served as an Alaskan bush plane. It now serves as a cocktail lounge on the tarmac – more on this in the next post,
Besides being a visual delight visiting the TWA Hotel is frankly a hoot, as it is not only filled with excellent restaurant and bars, well appointed rooms, a rooftop infinity pool and even a roller rink, it also showcases many exhibits illustrating life in the 1960’s. Being a Baby Boomer, seeing and interacting with the many displays was a memories filled jaunt through my past.
Join me next week as I relive my birthday weekend fun!