24 Hours in Airworld: Terminal 5, Old and New

Travel Blog  •  Rob Verger  •  06.09.09 | 3:11 PM ET

Photo by Rob Verger

It was raining this morning in New York City as I made my way to J.F.K. to spend 24 hours hanging out in JetBlue’s Terminal 5. Every time I come to this airport, I’m reminded how far away it is from Manhattan. I took the 1 Train to the 2 Train to the E Train to the AirTrain to get here—a trip longer than some short flights.

On the elevated walkway from the AirTrain to T5, I was able to look out on the old Eero Saarinen TWA terminal—JetBlue’s new terminal sits in front of the beautiful, soaring old building, which is currently closed for renovations and is under the management of the Port Authority. Once it opens, JetBlue will have two self-service kiosks in there, and there’s a rumor that the building could one day become a museum—or a pod hotel. Today the building sat there closed, under gray skies, a landmark from another era, connected to the new building through the old tubes.

Inside the new T5 (the older Saarinen building was also called Terminal 5) there is, of course, a striking sense of architectural modernity. I’ve set up a temporary camp near the center of what JetBlue calls “the marketplace.” This is the large triangular space at the intersection of the north, east and south concourses, and there’s a Borders bookstore here, a Jamba Juice, a sushi place called Deep Blue and other restaurants and shops. Two elevated platforms—JetBlue calls them grandstands—filled with white tables and chairs punctuate this space, and above them hangs a large metallic ring with inset digital displays, all of which is suspended from the ceiling by wire cables.

Photo by Rob Verger

The two grandstands and the hanging ring were designed by David Rockwell; the steps leading up to the platforms are supposed to be reminiscent of a New York City stoop, and the cables from which the ring is suspended are a visual tribute to the cables of the Brooklyn Bridge. And to complete the reminder of an outside space, while I sat beneath them, a small brown bird came and perched among the wires.

The terminal has a busy hum today, and people are working on their laptops around me at the tables or on the steps leading up to this platform. A little while ago, a young girl sat nearby, large headphones over her ears, her eyes glued to the screen of a large MacBook, sharing a plate of noodles with (I assume) her mother. It’s nice to be here in Airworld for a while, with no place to jet off to, no plane to catch.

Rob Verger

Rob Verger is a frequent contributor to World Hum and the site's former air travel blogger. His articles and photographs have appeared in the Boston Globe and other publications, and he's a former undergraduate writing instructor at Columbia University. If you like, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or follow him on Twitter.

2 Comments for 24 Hours in Airworld: Terminal 5, Old and New

Mirva 06.09.09 | 7:29 PM ET

Wow, I’m impressed! :) Are you doing this just for the blog?? That’s commitment right there, haha! Hey, I didn’t know that the old terminal was designed by my fellow Finn!

Rob Verger 06.09.09 | 7:45 PM ET

Hey, Mirva! Yup, exactly—I’m doing this for the blog (and, of course, for fun).

Did you know Saarinen designed the St. Louis Arch, too?

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