Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Preservationists Rip Plans to Destroy I.M. Pei-Designed Terminal Six at Kennedy Airport by Nicholas Hirshon - NY Daily News

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Preservationist Geoffrey Arend bemoans fate of I.M. Pei-designed Terminal Six at JFK Airport. Farriella for News

Demolishing this piece of aviation history isn't flying.

Critics are slamming plans to raze an abandoned Kennedy Airport terminal - designed by famed architect I.M. Pei - four decades after the groundbreaking window-wall structure was unveiled.

Terminal Six, most recently occupied by JetBlue, will be torn down next year for an unspecified use - perhaps a new terminal, a parking lot or an area to de-ice planes, the Port Authority said.

Preservationists blasted the plan to destroy the terminal, which features Pei's distinctive Sundrome pavilion. It was the first airport structure to employ glass as a primary construction material.

"It represents an era of aviation," said Geoffrey Arend, founder and editor of the trade publication Air Cargo News. He called Port Authority officials' decision to tear down Terminal Six "remarkably stupid."

A spokeswoman for Pei, 93, said he was "very unhappy" to learn of the proposed demolition of the terminal, a transparent glass box connected by walkways to rear gates.

The Port Authority chose Pei's design in the early 1960s. The terminal first housed National Airlines in 1970, and soon snared architectural honors from the Concrete Industry Board and the City Club of New York.

The 66,340-square-foot Sundrome also served Pan American, United and the Chilean airline Ladeco, but has been vacant since JetBlue moved out in 2008.

Port Authority spokesman Stephen Sigmund defended the demolition as a way to best utilize "now-unused space on a constrained airport."

"We feel that it's critical to improve the flying experience by bringing our airport facilities into the 21st century," Sigmund said.

Another PA spokesman noted that Terminal Six was never officially declared a landmark.

Designation by the city Landmarks Preservation Commission normally bars major alterations or demolition of historic structures without the city's approval.

Even if it were deemed a landmark, that might not save the terminal because the city does not wield "binding jurisdiction" over PA sites, a commission spokeswoman said.

Instead, fans of Pei's work plan to appeal directly to the PA, noting how a similar push saved the neighboring TWA Terminal Five from demolition.

Nina Rappaport of the Docomomo preservation group wants the terminal to see flights again, while Arend hopes it can be transformed into a reception area or restaurant.

George Miller, a partner at the architectural firm that Pei founded, urged the PA to reconsider.

"It really used a new model of a terminal that's more open and transparent," he said. "We are extremely disappointed that the Port Authority is going to demolish this building."

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