New life for iconic spaces

Photo from the konstantin von wedelstaedt collection

The TWA terminal at JFK

We talk a lot about re-purposing vintage fashion/accessories, as well as finding fresh inspiration from past icons, but what about finding new life for iconic spaces? This article about the TWA terminal at JFK got me super excited (and ready for a road trip to NYC). I’m so used to seeing vintage in a smaller, human-sized scale – thinking of the reclamation effort in terms of buildings or city blocks is a cool exercise.

It’s hard for me to imagine how one of Eero Saarinen’s masterpieces could ever go into a state of neglect. (But then I consider how many times I’ve invited someone to come to the flea market with me and hearing the reply “I don’t like old stuff.”) I don’t get it, but we live in a society that praises youth, the future, and instant gratification. But have you seen this space?! I mean, really – those curves, the soaring ceilings, the dramatic vistas – just soak it in…

I am so excited to hear that JetBlue may actually succeed in transforming this under-utilized space into a boutique hotel. (Apparently Donald Trump has tried to reimagine this terminal in the past.) In fact, all over the country grass-roots efforts are underway to save mid-century/modern gems. For example, LA has a task force to help people preserve places they feel are endangered.

Image by Payton Chung

The destruction of Ralph Rapson’s Guthrie

Preserving old buildings is nothing new per se, but it does seem that architecture from the 1960s modern age gets the short end of the stick in this regard. People just don’t think these structures are “historic enough.” Sigh. The aesthetic of order, metal, and glass can make it seem so well-suited for our present day lives, that people forget how revolutionary it was for the time. And the theme of the grid-like facade just doesn’t get the average person super jazzed about it. To them, it’s just another boxy building. Yet, these structures are so much more. By in large these buildings represent significant advancements in construction and planning (for example, the open floor plans we know and love in homes today take their cue from this time period.)

Minnesota is one state with an especially rich mid-century architectural history and they’re contributing to this overall dialogue about preservation. The questions seem to center around two key points: how old does a building have to be to become worth saving & if the aesthetic isn’t pleasing to everyone is it valuable to society. I know where I stand – but tell me your comments below. (And dip your toe into the discussion by investigating movements such as the Bauhaus, Mid-Century Modern, and Brutalist architecture.)

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