JetBlue to Reopen Saarinen Terminal

By Jill Comment


One of the most intriguing bits to come out of BusinessWeek‘s new Innovation & Design web section is an update on JetBlue’s proposed reopening of the legendary Eero Saarinen TWA terminal at JFK. The terminal has sat mostly vacant since 2001 and preservationists were crawling out of their skin at the end of 2003, when JetBlue and the Port Authority first announced a tentative agreement to renovate the fabulously glam interior. Said Fast Company:

Neither the Port Authority nor JetBlue knows what will become of the [Saarinen] structure, except that it most likely won’t be used in any future airline operations. JetBlue and Port Authority officials talk vaguely about a possible conference center or a shopping area. This sort of cart-before-the-horse thinking was what landed Saarinen’s terminal on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of most endangered historic places earlier this year.

But BizWeek is now reporting that a groundbreaking is scheduled for later this year, and buried deep in the piece is the news that Nobu man-about-Midtown David Rockwell has been lured onto the project!

Here’s a look at the deets:

• JetBlue’s planning an $875 million, 26-gate terminal, designed to handle 250 flights per day
• Richard Smyth, vice-president of JFK development, calls the design “nothing sexy” and says it will include “minimal lighting fixture styles and a boldly colored self-cleaning industrial carpet”
• The ticketing hall will have a low roofline that doesn’t “compete” with the historic Saarinen structure
• Here’s where Rockwell comes in: “Leaving security, all will pass through what the architects describe as a ‘glowing blue box,’ a grand space designed to assure the traveler that ‘JetBlue takes care of you.'” Rockwell calls the room “essentially a glorified food court” but perks up our attention when he reveals he consulted with a Broadway choreographer to plot passenger movement with a sense of “airiness.” We hope this means that running through the terminal with waving jazz hands will be strongly encouraged.
• “The expectation is that passengers will get their boarding passes in the historic building and walk through Saarinen’s Flight Wing tubes to the new terminal.”

There’s a lot at stake here for JetBlue, first in honoring the sanctity with which New Yorkers view the Saarinen terminal but also in continuing JetBlue’s tradition of great, low-cost design and customer loyalty. Elsewhere on the BW site, in an article called “Designed for Loving,” Gianfranco Zaccai asks, “What sells better than quality and is more precious than good value? A product engineered to create a great emotional experience.” So far, JetBlue has that market down pat, but messing with the Saarinen terminal is a tricky gambit. We’re going to be very interested to see the results. (Photo via Lightning Field)

JetBlue’s Terminal Takes Wing [Business Week] Designed for Loving [BusinessWeek]