The facility that opened in 1948 as New York International Airport has undergone myriad changes, particularly in the 21st century. It was just last year, for instance, that its TWA Flight Center, designed by Eero Saarinen in the early ’60’s, was transformed by Lubrano Ciavarra Architects, INC Architecture & Design, Beyer Blinder Belle Architects and Planners, and Stonehill Taylor into the TWA Hotel—and won an Interior Design Best of Year Award, to boot.
But it was 1956 when Isamu Noguchi was invited by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to submit a concept for a monumental sculpture for the new International Arrivals Building the firm was conceiving for what was then called Idlewild Airport. Noguchi proposed a 25-foot-tall granite column, but it was ultimately not selected (the commission went to Alexander Calder, whose .125 mobile now hangs in Terminal 4). A model of it, however, along with archival photographs and his Bird B sculpture are in “Composition for Idlewild Airport” at The Noguchi Museum in New York. Alongside that exhibition is “The Sculptor and the Ashtray,” which examines Noguchi’s efforts to design a perfect mass-produced version of the receptacle.