Skidmore, Owings & Merrill designs a new international terminal at JFK.
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 9/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
Once all roads led to Rome. Now they're a one-way street to New York. The city's undisputed status as the world's financial capital has expanded to embrace the arts and architecture, and its Mecca qualities have created ceaseless frissons of activity for the growing numbers of inhabitants and visitors intent on sampling the epicenter's vast range of experiences. Need evidence to substantiate growth? Just try to find a rentable apartment, grab a taxi, obtain tickets to a hot show, or even get into a Friday night movie at eight. Need proof of prosperity despite recent leaks in the economic bubble? Look at the airports. The number of travelers coming through the city, whether for business or pleasure, appears to be increasing exponentially. Which brings us to Terminal 4, the new international arrivals building at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the 1.5 million-sq.-ft. complex replaces its predecessor, built in 1958 and also designed by SOM. The client for this $1.4 billion facility, JFK's largest, was a private consortium consisting of LCOR Inc., a national real estate concern; Schipol USA, a subsidiary of Amsterdam's airport management; and Lehman Brothers, in collaboration with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. T4 is part of JFK's overall $10.3 billion reconstruction scheme that will eventually see every terminal either replaced or significantly revamped.
When the old International Arrivals Building was designed and erected, air travel was for the leisure class, and the progression of spaces involved in the check-in process had a quasi-domestic scale, SOM partner (and, as of October 1, chairman) Marilyn Jordan Taylor states by way of prologue. More travelers, more flights, heightened security requirements, seemingly endless pre-flight airport hours, and a general aura of high anxiety bring a whole new subset to today's design equation. "We wanted to address design from the passenger's point of view," the architect continues. "Comfort and clarity are central to the drama and experience of air travel."
The three-level "head house," encompassing roughly 60 percent of a complex that extends to two concourses, is a steel-and-glass-span structure predicated on translucency. Pulling up to the building, departing travelers are struck by its swooping roof and a 500-ft.-long grid of glass that allows views straight through the building's top level to runways and planes beyond. This "self-orienting" quality should eliminate stress, Taylor believes. The concourses, flanking the structure along east and west sides, have ten gates, with another six to be completed.
Organization is as follows. Curbside entry at the uppermost level leads to a 200,000-sq.-ft. departure/ticketing hall overlooking a retail area below equivalent to four city blocks. This 100,000-sq.-ft. shopping expanse, located before security, represents a significant change in approach for airports in America, according to Taylor. She explains that the thinking derives from the Schipol connection, "where amenities contribute to the experience. The idea of keeping you in the food and retail area instead of sending you off to the plane and having you wait there was critical." The vast hall, developed with retail consultant Communication Arts of Boulder, Colorado, offers such upscale draws as I Santi and H. Stern, as well as fast-food and other dining venues under the aegis of Restaurant Associates.
On the ground level, the terminal's 250,000-sq.-ft. arrivals component has its own distinct feature to help humanize the often disconcerting sequence from arrival gate through a "sterile corridor" to immigration and customs. Each leg of this tri-part journey is enlivened by a site-specific, commissioned artwork. For the corridor, Diller + Scofidio created Travelogue, a series of lenticular panels combining the contents of a suitcase with travel vignettes. Next is Harry Rosen's gypsum "curtain wall," inspired by the forms of undulating draperies. For the immigration hall, Deborah Masters created 28 relief panels of a similar material to depict typical scenes of New York life. The new pieces complement two of the airport's major works, which have been relocated to T4. They are Alexander Calder's Flight mobile and a ceramic mural created by Arshile Gorky for the original Newark Airport terminal of the 1930s.
Within T4, transparency and light continue as a pervasive theme through linear skylights and a ceiling solution addressing the needs for both daylight and artificial illumination. The treatment, which resembles a tautly stretched tent, is based on metal infill panels within a curvilinear framework that recalls the structure's roof. Recessed uplights are utilized in the departure hall. Steel columns, in a wishbone configuration, comprise the support system. They also create a sense of rhythm within the great hall.
In terms of efficiency, the terminal has adopted the "common-use" concept: its 38 airlines in service share counters and systems as needed. This factor, along with across-the-board increases in gates, check-in positions, and baggage carousels, should enable T4 to handle up to 3,200 passengers per hour as opposed to 2,000 per hour in the previous facility, according to Port Authority chairman Lewis M. Eisenberg.
SOM began the project eight years ago with a feasibility study. Actual construction, effected in phases to accommodate uninterrupted operations, took just over four years. T4's next phase, which will effectively double the complex's size, entails national and international facilities for Delta. Completion is slated for 2004.
Credit is shared by: partners David Childs, Carl Galioto, and Anthony Vacchione, in addition to Taylor; project managers Paul Auguste and Robert Chicas; and senior design architect Peter Ruggiero. TAMS Consultants was responsible for engineering/civil design, Ove Arup & Partners for engineering/MEP/structural work.