Monday, July 26, 2010

National Faire!

We all have to admit that flying these days has become a bit of trial, and one of the biggest trials of all is at the airport. For all the new airport terminals that have opened recently, they still leave me rather unimpressed. They all tout the amount of natural light and wide open spaces that they incorporate. Even though the architecture maybe good, by the time all the stores, security checkpoints, fast food joints etc have been added in, it all starts to resemble a suburban shopping mall. Even from the exterior these new buildings lack presence being obscured by elevated roadways and such. One particular example is JFK, which is a nightmare.

In the 60’s and 70’s I imagine departing and arriving was an entirely different matter. We had the brilliance of Eero Saarinen’s terminal for TWA, the jet age splendour of Pan Am’s Worldport, and the clean stark modernity of National Airlines Sundrome.

The terminal designed by I. M. Pei was opened in 1970 for National Airlines. Now this is a terminal filled with natural light. This was the first time an airport structure was built using glass as a primary source of construction. This is a masterpiece of modernist architecture using incredibly clean and simple lines to convey an extraordinary sense of space. In this case the building does not have to convey movement as one can see all the movement happening outside.

There were very few curves in the building except for central open core (hence the name Sundrome) allowing natural sunlight into the lower levels.

Now after nearly 40 years and subsequent use by various different airlines it conveys nothing of the original impact it once had.

Unfortunately it has been slated for demolition, and preservationists have organized an opposition to its demolition and so they should. This is evocative of when flying was full of savoir faire.


  1. JFK is a maze - always get lost in the place. For good architecture in airports I think Madrid Aiport is a good example - I like the use of colour in the structure.

  2. really was beautiful back then.
    I love how he worked the escalators.

  3. Will, I will have to check Madrid out.

    Jason, Yes, it was, just looks all dark and dingy now! Escalators are cool


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