The only rendering of the proposed TWA Flight Center Hotel, designed by Beyer Blinder Belle, shows very little of the future structure except two six-story volumes behind Saarinen’s winglike forms. Image courtesy Beyer Blinder Belle
New York will see a slew of airport improvements in the next few years and, surprisingly, the only one not causing controversy is a $48 million terminal for animals known as the Ark. The same can’t be said for the other two projects—a $4 billion reconstruction of LaGuardia Airport and the incorporation of Eero Saarinen’s iconic TWA Flight Center into a hotel at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
The bigger project by far is the redevelopment of LaGuardia airport, announced July 27 by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Vice President Joe Biden, who slammed the airport last year, comparing it to a third-world facility. The plan calls for a new HOK-designed terminal to replace virtually all of the existing airport buildings.
Yet for many critics, the plan is not ambitious enough. LaGuardia has unusually short runways, which the Cuomo plan won’t replace, making the overhaul largely cosmetic, according to some. James Venturi, principal of the organization ReThinkNYC, calls for a vast expansion, with additional terminals in the Bronx and the conversion of Rikers Island—the site of New York’s notorious jail complex—into runways to address the threat of rising sea levels.
Preservationists, meanwhile, are keeping an eye on JFK. Plans are proceeding to convert Eero Saarinen’s 1962 TWA terminal into the lobby, meeting, and restaurant wing of a $250 million 505-room hotel, a project of MCR Development with JetBlue and the Port Authority. The sole rendering released shows very little of the proposed six-story hotel, but, as reporter David Dunlap noted in The New York Times, there will probably be opposition.
About half a mile from TWA, a cargo building will be converted to the animal terminal, complete with veterinary and kenneling services and a canine spa. The project is being built with private money and involves no historic buildings. Its architect, Cliff Bollmann, a senior associate at Gensler, has designed two JetBlue terminals at JFK and a new roof deck on another terminal. Designing for two-legged or four-legged travelers is similar, he says. True, horses require wide corridors, but, like humans, need “clear way finding and familiar surroundings,” he says. To provide those surroundings, Bollmann will install barns inside the airport building.