Photo Essay: Inside LaGuardia Airport’s Posh New Central Terminal

A Strikingly Modern Look for What Was a Much Maligned Aerodrome

A section of the 268' long “La Guardia Vistas” at the airport

By Kurt Stolz on 14 June 2020
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LaGuardia Airport, until recently New York’s much maligned aerodrome that was famously maligned by former Vice President Joe Biden as being “third world,” as he targeted the airport’s aging infrastructure, is no more.  All hail the new LaGuardia Airport, or at least its central arrivals and departures terminal, designated as Terminal B.

Built as part of an $8 billion overhaul, the soaring, light- and art-filled building, which may be the most technically advanced airport terminal in the country, opened its doors to travelers Saturday although many didn’t show up given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Thanks to four newly commissioned art installations by renowned artists Jeppe Hein, Sabine Hornig, Laura Owens, and Sarah Sze, the new terminal is also one of the few places New Yorkers and visitors can go to see art, until the city’s museums begin to reopen their doors.

“Shorter Than The Day” (foreground), “I [pizza] NY” (background)

“These four site specific works of public art will provide focal points of beauty that reflect the creativity, energy, culture and spirit of the Empire State,” said Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in a statement relating to the opening. “Public art is a key medium to show the world who we are and to say when you come to New York you will be amazed and inspired.”

Travelers entering the terminal from the parking garage are greeted by the first piece of art: “La Guardia Vistas.” This two-story, 268’ (82 m) long piece bathes the walkway and the people in it in color from over 1,100 photographs of Manhattan. Taken from multiple vantage points, including the island’s rooftops and the Queens waterfront, the photos were integrated to form a stained glass window-like mural that intersperses 20 quotes from Hizzoner himself, Fiorello La Guardia, who served as mayor from 1934-1945. “We have established the lesson for the entire world. We have demonstrated that it is possible for people coming from all lands and climes of the world… to live together as good neighbors, in peace and harmony. If we can do it here, it can be done elsewhere,” he said in 1936.

“Whether you came over on the Aquatania or your ancestors came over on the Santa Maria, the Mayflower, or the Half Moon, you are an immigrant or a descendant of immigrants. Bear that in mind,” LaGuardia had said in 1922.

The ice cream truck in the “I [pizza] NY” mosaic

“I [pizza] NY” is the largest indoor mosaic in the world, although the title of Owens’s mosaic mural for the terminal’s largest wall is actually a pizza emoji separating the letters “I” and “NY.”  The mural serves as a shout-out to all that is great in the city’s five boroughs, with the Cyclone at Coney Island, the Apollo theater sign in Harlem, an ice-cream truck, the Chrysler Building, the Stonewall Inn, and of course a slice of New York-style pizza – all against a blue sky filled with puffy white clouds.

Sarah Sze’s “Shorter Than The Day” is a massive spherical sculpture when viewed up close turns out to be a skeletal framework to which Sze has clipped hundreds of photographs of the sky above New York City taken over the course of a single day. It creates a dizzying constellation that appears to swirl in mid-air.

Once you cleared the security checkpoint, did you notice that balloon touching the ceiling with a  long ribbon dangling from the ceiling?  It wasn’t lost by a child but rather it’s part of what artist Jeppe Heindescribes as a “fairytale breadcrumb trail” that he hopes will invite travelers to “look skyward and embrace their sense of wonder.”

Hein has sprinkled a trail of interactive sculptures throughout the terminal. Completing the piece, entitled “All Your Wishes,” are three whimsically bright-red benches on the floor that fancifully curve, loop and twist.

We dispatched several members of the Frequent Business Traveler editorial team to fan out and document the new terminal in photographs.  This is what they found.

Click here to continue to Page 2More Photographs of the New LaGuardia Airport and its Art

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