JetBlue's Low-Profile, High-Pedigree Terminal

By Published on .

The $743 million JetBlue terminal, slated to open October 1 at New York's Kennedy Airport, is a new millennium tribute to Eero Saarinen's architectural incarnation of air travel, the 1962 TWA terminal. The Saarinen terminal has been closed since TWA went under in 2001. JetBlue began plans to share the space with the structure, now a historic landmark, in 2004. Four years later and a few months from open, Creativity takes you into the low-cost airline's intentionally low-profile new home at Terminal 5.

Architecture and interior design firm Gensler and design consultant David Rockwell translated the brand's tenets of efficiency, customer service and fun into physical space, so that the terminal, called T5, embodies the customer-centric ethos central to the budget airline's philosophy. For example, the curved, wide skywalk connecting AirTrain to the terminal facilitates "intuitive wayfinding," says Gensler project principal William Hooper. That's just one of many structural cues that funnel arriving travelers to the ticketing area and onto their gates. To ease passage through security, Hooper says T5's security bank is the largest in the country and has been outfitted with soft rubber floors for shoeless feet. After customers clear security x-ray machines, they're greeted by a wall lined with a long bench, where they can sit down and get themselves and their posessions back in order. For openness and the comfort of natural light, the entire terminal is riddled with large windows and skylights, which is one of the terminal's sustainable design features. The green issue, however, might be the one area in which the structure falls short: the building itself is not LEED certified. (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, LEED, is an accredited third-party certifier for green building.) According to a representative from the project engineer firm Arup, certification was not possible because of the airport's existing energy infrastructure.

The first terminal built in the U.S. since 9/11, T5 was designed to accommodate 20 million passengers per year—only a few million shy of the total traffic at LaGuardia Airport in 2007 and more than 30 percent of Kennedy's projected traffic.

Below, check out photos and model renderings of the new terminal.

The Gensler design was intended to echo and not overshadow the TWA terminal, the icon of 20th century architecture that Saarinen designed as a symbol of flight. Saarinen, who died in 1961 before the terminal was completed, called it "a building in which the architecture itself would express the drama and specialness and excitement of travel," according to Eero Saarinen: An Architecture of Multiplicity by Antonio Román.

The new terminal occupies a fan-shaped site with 26 gates, three concourses and a central retail and concession space, the Rockwell-designed Marketplace.

David Rockwell of Rockwell Group designed the Marketplace, the circular space where arriving passenger traffic meets the stream of departing passengers who've just cleared the 340-foot 20-lane security area, the largest in the U.S. Rockwell designed the space with the help of choreographer Jerry Mitchell to facilitate the "public dance" that is navigating New York. The area's centerpiece, and nexus around which traffic will flow, is a grandstand, a raised platform of steps like those often found in New York City, where travelers can pause to eat or people-watch. The top of the platform can also be used for public art exhibition or performance.

The terminal is connected to the AirTrain by a skywalk and to the Saarinen terminal by two tubes originally built in the 1960s. When the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey decide to reopen the Saarinen terminal, it will provide a third entry point to T5 and will be outfitted with JetBlue ticketing kiosks.
Most Popular
In this article: