Knowing how much I love aviation and architecture it has been a while since I have featured a post combining both of these loves.
We are all familiar with the name of Eero Saarinen, the Finnish architect who designed some of the 20th Century’s most iconic emblems of mid-century modernity. Who cannot know the “Tulip Chair”, “Womb Chair” and various other items of furniture which are still in production with Knoll?
However it is as an architect that he was well and truly in his element, with some of America’s most iconic structures being designed by him. Undoubtedly, his most famous work is the TWA Flight Center at JFK, which represents the culmination of his previous designs and demonstrates his expressionism and the technical marvel in concrete shells.
However, another part of his architectural legacy includes Washington Dulles International Airport which is sometimes overlooked in favour of the TWA Flight Centre in New York. Designed in 1958 and opened in 1962, the main terminal is a fitting homage to an architect with foresight and vision.
Eero Saarinen intended his Dulles International Airport Terminal to evoke both the monumentality of a federal building in the nation's capital and the dynamism of the dawning age of jet travel. (Dulles was the first commercial airport designed for jet aircraft from the start.). There is a dynamic sense of liftoff and speed.
Architects continually cite it as one of America's greatest works of modern architecture. Designed as a jet-age threshold and gateway, the terminal is a kind of super-scaled pavilion, a place of transition between movement on land and movement through the air.
Two characteristics, in particular, make Dulles unique. It has proved functionally durable because of the terminal's flexibility and adaptability to changing needs. Owing to the clarity of its dynamic, of its original design, its aesthetic quality also has endured, to become a classic example of mid-century modern.
In order to reduce the distances that passengers had to walk, and to create a compact building, Saarinen developed "mobile lounges," motorized departure lounges on wheels that would detach from the terminal and transport travelers to their aircraft, located at service areas near the runways.
Anticipating growth in airport usage, Saarinen designed the terminal to be expanded. Indeed, stretching the original terminal to its current length some years ago actually enhanced the building's overall proportions, fulfilling Saarinen's intentions.
The airport authority has wisely safeguarded this relationship by not crowding the terminal with. At many airports, terminals have become part of sprawling building agglomerations, with multi storied car parks and hotels, jostling for space. Dulles can be seen and appreciated architecturally from afar.