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News Link • Transportation: Air Travel

The Problem With Fetishizing Midcentury Modernism


Around this time next year, travelers passing through JFK International Airport's notorious chaotic halls will have an incentive to linger in Terminal 5, with the opening of the splashy new TWA Hotel–a 512-room property centered around an extensive restoration of the landmark TWA Flight Center, the midcentury jewel completed by Finnish architect Eero Saarinen in 1962.

And its developers, MCR/Morse Development, are intent on creating an entire experience pegged to that specific year–a zeitgeist-defining time, CEO Tyler Morse said, embodying an optimistic moment in American innovation and design. Both the interiors and exteriors of the iconic structure were deemed a New York City Landmark in 1994, and joined the National Register of Historic Places in 2005, but had long sat vacant in disuse since 2002, when the once-major airline filed for bankruptcy and was acquired by American Airlines.

For its effort, MCR is the developer and lead investor for a massive public-private partnership with JetBlue (currently the sole airline at Terminal 5), and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

At a preview of the hotel's interior design this week, still under construction ahead of the spring 2019 launch, flight attendants in vintage mini-dress uniforms and pilots in aviator sunglasses greeted guests with trays of retro candies and sweets: sleeves of Necco wafers, boxes of Good & Plenty, Sugar Daddy lollipops, candy cigarettes, and cans of Tab soda, which, if you can believe, was short for "Totally Artificial Beverage," says Morse–a scientific triumph itself, brought to you by food chemists, that was then heartily embraced. It was a surprisingly convenient metaphor for the way midcentury modernism has been mined and repackaged for contemporary consumers, featuring only the sweetest parts.

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