History of Innovation

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1956: TWA Terminal – New York City, New York

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Image Sources: 1, 2, 3

Innovation: TWA Terminal
Location: New York City, New York
Year: 1956
Architect: Eero Saarinen
Structural Engineer: Amman and Whitney

The construction of The Trans World Airlines Terminal, which was designed by Eero Saarinen as part of the JFK International Airport in New York, began in 1956 and was completed six years later. Saarinen’s abstractly bird-shaped design was intended to celebrate the spirit of flight that everyday citizens had just recently begun to enjoy[1]. The most prominent feature of Saarinen’s extremely futuristic design was the 1.4 acres of reinforced concrete that formed the thin shelled roof of the main volume of the building. In his original plans, this expansive roof was one continuous, undulating slab, but engineers from Amman and Whitney suggested that he separate the roof into four separate slabs connected by joints, because of the shrinking that would inevitably occur in the concrete[2]. This shrinking occurs in large concrete applications due to a temperature difference between the initial layer and each subsequent layer of concrete as older layers begin to cool off [3]. This structure is only supported by four pillars, which gives the form an even more discernible connection to flight.

The TWA Terminal didn’t only look futuristic. It was the first terminal to have enclosed passenger jet ways, baggage claim carousels, electronic schedule boards, baggage scales, and a central PA system[1].


Written by Emily Lamon

October 4, 1956 at 7:27 pm

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