24 October 2011

TWA Terminal by Eero Saarinen, More Than Architecture

TWA Flight Center (JetBlue Terminal 5) - 1961
From MidCentArc via Flickr
This morning, thanks to Jason Whiton of Spy Vibe, I was reminded of how incredibly beautiful the TWA Terminal by Eero Saarinen* really is. While the terminal has been renowned for decades as a masterpiece of architecture, for Mid-Century Modern enthusiast and others alike, I gained a new perspective of it today.

I've heard and read many times that the terminal was sculpted, and of it being a true work of art. True, all architecture is art, but in comparison to the TWA terminal, most other architecture is just stacked materials. While I had always appreciated the form and flow (that jet age look) of the TWA terminal, it wasn't until my recent post on "Knoll Furniture" that I found the first key that changed how I saw the TWA terminal.

In the "Knoll Furniture"post there is an interesting video about Eero Saarinen's furniture* and design*. In this video, Brian Lutz (author of Knoll Furniture*) states that Florence Knoll told him, speaking about Eero Saarinen:"before anything else, he's [Eero Saarinen] is a sculptor". Truly, that is evident in much of his work, but I think the TWA terminal points that out better than anything else.

Saarinen's* qualities as a sculptor are abundant in the TWA terminal. In the photos on Phaidon's site, you can see many of these qualities very clearly. Some instances that are well known would be the flowing stair cases, the hanging clocks, the seating, reception desk, and the handrails. However, some thing more caught my eye when I was comparing the photos that I had seen before, with those on Phaidon's site. In all that Eero Saarinen* crafted for the terminal, he choose textures and colors that added depth to the dramatic, but smooth lines he drew in 3 dimensional space. Space and depth became divided, not so much by a line, but more by a cast shadow or a subtle change in tone depth. This added a dimension that takes normal 3 dimensional space to its limit. With his final work, he really showed his hand as an artist, as an architect, the words of Florence Knoll, "before anything else, as a sculptor".

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