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Preservationists want JFK terminal left alone.


Preservationists are demanding that JFK's Eero Saarinen TWA terminal remain what it was designed to be--a working air terminal--instead of a restaurant or conference center.

The 1962 landmark building has brought several high profile architects together to oppose the Port Authority's plan to enclose the building inside two new terminals. The Port Authority maintains that their proposal would preserve the building while making it a more functional air terminal.

Philip Johnson, Robert A.M Stern and members of the Municipal Arts Society publicly denounced the project last week at a press conference.

"If you are going to strangle a building to death, you might as well just tear it down. Our duty is to save it, not to freeze it," said Philip Johnson at the press conference.

Though the Port Authority isn't proposing to tear the building down, Johnson and his fellow preservationists recalled the demolition of the old Penn Station as a cautionary tale.

"I protested plans to demolish Penn Station with Eero Saarinen's wife," said Johnson, adding that "it deserves our attention and protection."

The Port Authority did not send a spokesperson to the press conference. However, a man seated in the back of the room quietly handed out a written statement by William DeCota, the director of aviation for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

"The proposal will reestablish the Terminal 5 landmark as a more visible icon within the airport while making it much more accessible to the public. The Port Authority agrees with the Municipal Arts Society that the Terminal 5 landmark should be a functioning part of the airport," said DeCota's statement.

The Port Authority has enlisted architectural firm Beyer Blinder Belle, who restored Grand Central Station, to build the new terminals. Plans call for the flight wings to be demolished in order to connect the new building to Terminal 5 via the jetways. Plans to restore the building would be deferred until a new tenant is located. That tenant would then be responsible for the restoration and reuse of the building.

The Municipal Arts Society wants the Port Authority to take immediate responsibility for the building's preservation. They claim that the building has fallen into disrepair and its condition will surely deteriorate.

After the press conference last week, the same group of Saarinen backers were scheduled to speak before the Landmarks Preservation Commission. A spokeswoman from the Landmarks Preservation Commission did not return calls for comment.

"At a time when corporate business kills the spirit, which can be felt in architecture, and our everyday airport experiences become repetitive and bleak, this inspiring space must be re-used with true understanding," said Steven Holl, architect and professor of architecture at Columbia University.
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Author:Chapman, Parke
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 22, 2001
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