Adieu Terminal City: The Future JFK is Coming Soon

One of the tube-shaped arrival-departure corridors at the TWA Flight Center

By Jonathan Spira on 13 February 2020
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Now that the plans to redevelop John F. Kennedy International Airport as a more interconnected airport have been somewhat finalized, it’s important to look back at the airport’s first redevelopment in the 1950s as Terminal City.

While the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which assumed control of the airport in 1947, originally envisioned one large 55-gate terminal.  Larger airlines were against the idea as it would not allow for any expansion.  As a result of the opposition, architect Wallace Harrison developed a master plan for what would be called “Terminal City,” where each major airline would be given space for its own terminal and the freedom to develop its own terminal building. Airlines competed against one another to for the best designed terminal, which resulted in such masterpieces as the Pan Am Worldport, designed by Tippetts, Abbett, McCarthy and Stratton, and the TWA Flight Center, designed by Eero Saarinen, which opened in 1962.

The Pan Am Worldport opened in 1960 and was noteworthy for its four-acre elliptical concrete canopy that covered the building and its jetways, allowing the Pan Am clippers to park nose in under the canopy. The TWA Flight Center featured a prominent wing-shaped roof over the main structure, tube-shaped corridors that led to departure gates, and tall windows that offered expansive views of airport operations.

The Pan Am Worldport in its later years

Some of the less extraordinary buildings include Terminal 7, the final addition to Terminal City, designed by GMW Architects and built for BOAC and Air Canada. It is the only airport terminal in the United States operated by a foreign carrier, namely British Airways, which will vacate that terminal and move to the American Airlines Terminal in 2022.

Northwest Airlines, Braniff International, and Northeast Airlines jointly opened what is now Terminal 2 in 1962. The building is still in use – now by Delta Air Lines after having been taken over by Pan Am after the demise of Northeast Airlines and Braniff.

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