Saarinen's TWA Trumpet To Move

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Eero Saarinen's TWA trumpet connected the now-demolished flightwings.

Credit: JetBlue

A section of Eero Saarinen's 1962 TWA Terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport known as the "trumpet" will be getting a little fanfare of its own sometime next week; the piece will be moved in preparation for construction of the new JetBlue Airways terminal.

The move is no easy task, of course: The interior and foundation of the 5,000 square-foot concrete structure had to first be reinforced with steel, and earlier this month, the trumpet was lifted six feet in the air to place huge dollies underneath it.

"The lifting took several days," says JetBlue spokesperson Bryan Baldwin. "Each dolly weighs about 92 tons with the building on top of it, with the main ‘head' dolly weighing in at 133 tons."

The trumpet, called such because of its curved shape, was saved last summer thanks to the efforts of a group of more than 15 organizations who formed the Redevelopment Advisory Committee in 2003 to consult with JetBlue about protecting Saarinen's design. JetBlue agreed to save the trumpet, the front of the terminal (also called the head house), and two tubes that once led to the flight wings. The airline destroyed the flight wings themselves in 2005 to make room for the new terminal.

"In a way, [the trumpet] is like the DNA of the flight wing," says Frank Sanchis, member of the Redevelopment Advisory Committee and senior vice president of the Municipal Arts Society of New York. "Without some actual remnant of the flight wings, we would have lost that piece of the design forever."

The new JetBlue terminal should be completed by Fall 2008, Baldwin estimates. In the meantime, the trumpet will have to be moved twice—once to make way for construction, and a second time to attach the structure to the back of the new terminal, where it will be used as an observation deck. If all goes as planned, the trumpet will be settled in its final location sometime this summer.

"We're quite pleased with the outcome," says Roberta Lane, program officer at the National Trust's Northeast Office, who was also involved in the Redevelopment Advisory Committee. "We felt that the more of Saarinen's original design that could be preserved, the better, and this extension is really evocative of that modernist design." 

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