Despite Pleas to Save It, I.M. Pei's JFK Terminal 6 Is Being Demolished

Despite Pleas to Save It, I.M. Pei's JFK Terminal 6 Is Being Demolished
I.M. Pei's Sundrome, the long unused Terminal 6 at Kennedy International Airport
(George Cserna)

I.M. Pei's Sundrome, the long unused Terminal 6 at Kennedy International Airport, is seeing its last days. The spacious glass pavilion will be demolished by the end of October.

Despite pleas from Henry N. Cobb, a colleague at Pei Cobb Freed & Partners in New York, the Port Authority is getting rid of Terminal 6 to make room for "improvements that will better serve travelers and help reduce delays," the New York Times reported, which translates to additional boarding gates and aircraft parking for Jet Blue's Terminal 5. Maintenance of the vacant terminal cost the city a reported $600,000 a year.

 

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Cobb had made his case to Jet Blue president and chief executive David Barger, describing the terminal as an opportunity for the airline to show itself a "sponsor of design excellence and an effective advocate for a sustainable future." Barger kindly responded that the terminal had outlived its purpose, and instead offered to advocate a "permanent display of the pavilion photographs and other architectural artifacts so future generations can continue to appreciate the beauty of Terminal 6."

National Airlines, the company that invited travelers to "fly me" until it smerger with PanAm, opened Terminal 6 in 1969 as the Sundrome. Described as "serene," "simple," and "dignified," Pei's design used 16 massive concrete columns to bear the entire weight of the roof, giving him the freedom to replace load-bearing walls with green-tinted glass. The result was a completely transparent space, quiet and restrained in comparison to Eero Saarinen's TransWorld Airlines Flight Center next door. Saarinen's decidedly more dramatic portion ofthe airport, Jetson-like with sloping white concrete wings, was preserved and rehabilitated by Port Authority for $20 million.

"It's very sad," said Cobb, who insists the Sundrome is still structurally sound. "The whole thing is very sad."