Iconic Airports: Where Are They Now?

Original LAX airport design
Original LAX plan, courtesy LA World Airports Flight Path Learning Center

Yesterday, I went out to JFK Airport with no flight to catch and no visitors to greet. It was the annual Open House New York event, where private buildings and homes all over the city open to the public for a few hours, and it was a last chance to see the iconic TWA Flight Center before it is turned into a hotel. (You can see our photos from last year here.)

Native New Yorkers, retired flight attendants, tourists and architecture enthusiasts flooded the airy terminal, closed since TWA ceased operations in 2001, taking photos and sharing stories about the good old days of air travel. The mid-20th century was the high point in airport design; its airy and futuristic buildings can be appreciated by any modern day traveler who has ever had a layover at La Guardia.

We looked at some of the most iconic airport architecture in the U.S. and their current status. Is your favorite still flying?

%Slideshow-100872%DCA Terminal A – Washington D.C.’s first airport opened in 1941, and was considered to be the most modern in airport design at the time. In addition to its status as historic landmark and aviation icon, it’s also an archaeological site: the airport was built on a former colonial plantation and the birthplace of George Washington’s granddaughter.

Status: The original terminal was restored to its original look in 2004 and 2008, with the interior currently undergoing a massive renovation. You can still see many parts of the original lobby and building as it looked when President Roosevelt dedicated it. Check out some vintage postcards of the airport from the Boston Public Library.

IAD Main Terminal – One of Swedish architect Eero Saarinen’s airport designs, Dulles was designed in 1958 and dedicated in 1962, the same year the TWA terminal opened. The architect called the building and control tower “the best thing that I have done,” and inspired the design of Taiwan’s international airport. The “mobile lounges” were one of the most innovative concepts, carrying passengers in relative luxury from the terminal right to the plane

Status: Dulles wasn’t a popular airport from the beginning, as it didn’t allow jumbo jets until 1970 and the distance from the city is still off-putting, but it’s now one of the busiest in the country and is continuing to expand. The mobile lounges are still around, but the new Aero Train is more commonly used.

JFK Pan Am Worldport - The 1960 “flying saucer” was designed to bring the airplane to the passenger, sheltering the planes under the overhang for all-weather boarding. It was opened for Pan Am and renamed the Worldport in 1971 when it was expanded to accommodate the Boeing 747, and was the biggest passenger terminal in the world for several years. After Pan Am went bankrupt in the ’90s, Delta acquired the terminal and used it for many long-haul flights.

Status: Although it is on the list of the most endangered historic buildings and beloved by many airline and architecture enthusiasts, it looks like the Worldport is permanently grounded. While Delta just completed a major renovation of their other terminal at JFK, they need the room for airplane parking, and the flying saucer is already beginning to be demolished.

LAX Theme building – The distinctive Theme building is a perfect example of 1960s futuristic architecture, resembling something out of the Jetsons and actually inspiring the cartoon’s design. Part of the original ambitious plans for the airport was to connect terminal buildings with a giant glass dome, with the Theme Building serving as the main terminal, as in the picture above. One of the most famous buildings in the world, it’s photographed more than the Eiffel Tower.

Status: The Theme building has been a restaurant since 1997, and you can visit Encounter for a meal even if you aren’t flying. The free observation deck is open on weekends only if you just want to watch the planes taking off.

LGA Marine Air Terminal – For a passenger who arrives at one of La Guardia’s many dim and low-ceilinged gates, it’s hard to imagine that an Art Deco beauty is part of the same airport. Opened in 1940 and funded by the post-depression Works Progress Administration, the Marine Air Terminal originally served the glamorous Clipper planes, carrying 72 passengers on long transoceanic flights with sleeping berths and a high-end restaurant. The second World War made such flying boats obsolete, and the terminal sat unused for several decades.

Status: It’s now the main hub for Delta’s shuttle service to Boston, Chicago and Washington, even after a massive renovation to Delta’s other terminal at LGA. While it might have less modern facilities, it’s the only terminal to feature an original mural dedicated to flight (with a secret message).

LGB Main Terminal – The first trans-continental flight landed at Long Beach in 1911, but the Streamline Moderne terminal wasn’t built for another 30 years. The modernist building was considered avant garde at the time, but now feels classic and a bit romantic among airports, the kind of place you can imagine passengers boarding with hat boxes and cat eye sunglasses. Much smaller than nearby LAX, JetBlue made it a west coast hub in 2001 and put the California airport back on the map.

Status: Last year, LGB was fully modernized to make it more green and “resort-like,” with outdoor spaces outfitted with fire pits and cabanas. The renovation uncovered more of the mosaic tile art by WPA artist Grace Clements, then 28 years old, and covered by carpet for 70 years.

Brooklyn Bridge: Musical Instrument?

Human Harp

If you have ever crossed the Brooklyn Bridge you know that it’s a stunning piece of architecture. But if artist Di Mainstone has her way, it will be more than just that. It will be a musical instrument.

Mainstone’s Human Harp project, documented beautifully by the Creators Project, aims to transform bridges around the world into instruments, allowing people to interact with architecture in a new way and “play” them, which means that come next year, hopefully you’ll be able to pretend the Brooklyn Bridge is a harp.

In fact, when the Brooklyn Bridge re-opens in 2014, you will be able to strap on a harness – developed by Mainstone – that connects retractable strings to the bridge itself, making music as you move.

If all goes well, the Human Harp may soon be coming to a bridge near you.

Valencia: Spain’s Third City Offers Culture And Cuisine

Valencia
Sean McLachlan

There’s a well-worn tourist trail in Spain: Madrid for the art, Barcelona for the nightlife and the Costa del Sol for the beaches. All of these are great, but there are plenty of other spots that often slip under the radar. Valencia, for example, gets plenty of tourists from Europe yet seems to not get so many Americans. I hardly saw any in the past three days.The Yanks need to reconsider because there’s a huge amount of history and culture to experience. Valencia on Spain’s Mediterranean coast has been a center of industry and the arts for more than 2,000 years. Founded by the Romans in the second century B.C., it soon became one of the leading cities on the Iberian Peninsula. In the Middle Ages it had a diverse population of Christians, Muslims and Jews who managed to get along most of the time despite the near-constant warfare between Muslims and Christians that ravaged the peninsula and made the city change hands several times.

Sad to say, this harmony was not to last. Everyone in the Jewish community was kicked out or forced to convert during a Christian riot in 1391. The success of the Reconquista in 1492 spelled the beginning of the end for the Muslim community. Their legacy lives on in the city’s art and architecture.

Valencia’s historic center is an architectural jewel with its winding medieval streets, old palaces and churches, and countless little shops and cafes. Here you’ll find the 13th century Valencia Cathedral, which claims to have the Holy Grail on display. This little agate cup is said to date to the first century B.C., although the ornamentation around it is clearly medieval. The story goes that St. Peter took it to Rome after the Crucifixion and it was in the possession of the first 23 popes before it was sent to Spain to keep it safe from persecuting Romans.

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To see the cup itself, check out the Holy Grail Chapel just to the right of the entrance. It’s displayed in surprisingly modest surroundings although that will change if the current Mayor of Valencia, Rita Barberá, has her way. She wants to get UNESCO World Heritage status for the cup, make a large showroom for it, and dub Valencia “the city of the Holy Grail.” Hey, it worked for Turin. Relic hunters will also not want to miss the preserved arm of San Vicente.

You can make a grand entrance to the historic center via one of the two medieval gates, each flanked by a pair of towers. The Torres de Quart are pockmarked by the bombardment they received during the War of Independence against Napoleonic occupation in 1808. The more ornate and less abused Torres de Serranos overlook the Turia riverbed. The river was diverted in the 1950s and now the riverbed is a long, green park that makes for a shaded avenue through the heart of the city.

Summer in Valencia is scorching, so it’s a good idea to take shelter in one of the city’s many museums. Museum junkies will feel at home here. There are dozens of museums on seemingly every subject. The most outstanding one is the City of Arts and Sciences. This ultramodern complex includes the largest marine park in Europe, a huge science museum, concert hall, IMAX cinema and greenhouse.

The Valencian Museum of Enlightenment and Modernity offers a constantly changing set of temporary (and free!) exhibitions. Right now they’re having exhibitions on witchcraft, Siberian shamanism, and photographs from turn-of-the-century Russia. Budget travelers will also want to check out the many other free museums: the Museum of Fine Arts, with its collections of Goya, Sorolla and many other Spanish artists linked with Valencia; the Military Historical Museum; the Prehistoric Museum; and the Ethnographic Museum, among others.

For a rundown of all of them, check out this list of top museums in Valencia, art museums, and more obscure museums – and I do mean obscure. There’s a Rice Museum, and a Tin Soldier Museum that boasts the largest collection of little tough guys in the world.

Valencia has a distinct regional culture. Many locals here speak Valencian, which depending on who you ask is either a dialect of Catalan or its own language. It’s sufficiently close to Castilian, in that this Castilian speaker can mostly understand it, although there are occasional words that are completely different. In any case, signs are generally both in Valencian and Castilian, and often in English too.

When not hiding in a beautiful church or interesting museum, you can keep in the shade by wandering the little streets of the historic quarter. There are plenty of little restaurants and cafes to keep you fueled. Eating and drinking in Valencia offers a regional variation on the Spanish theme too, but that deserves an article of its own, so stay tuned for that tomorrow!

Bruges: 7 Reasons The ‘Venice Of Belgium’ Is Worth Visiting

Anna Brones

The only memory I had of the Belgian city Bruges was thanks to the black comedy film “In Bruges,” where the city is more or less equated to some form of purgatory. The only image I had retained was a grey, misty and dismal city with not much going for it.

Not the case.

An easy day trip from Brussels, Bruges is worth your time, and not just if your obsessed with waffles. If you’re lucky, the sun will be out and you’ll find out exactly why this picturesque European town is called the “Venice of Belgium.”

Anna Brones

1. It’s a bicycle heaven, reminiscent of other bike capitals like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, only smaller and much more manageable. There are several bike rental operations in town as well as bike tours.

2. You can eat your weight in waffles. However, although waffles are easy to find, not all are created equal. Make sure you buy yours from a place that makes their own batter and makes the waffles right in front of you instead of heating them up.

3. Nothing is more classic than the rooftops of Bruges, and the city is perfect for anyone interested in architecture.

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4. Bruges is on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Thanks to its Gothic center, there’s plenty to explore from the Belfry, dating back to the 1200s, and the Burgh square in front of town hall.

5. You can dive into the world of Belgian beer on pretty much any corner. If you’re a beer connoisseur you better get ready; the options are endless and it’s good to choose carefully. Here’s a good roundup of a few of the best.

6. It’s quainter than Brussels. Yeah, I said it, and although most of Bruges looks like it could be the subject of a postcard collection, you never get the feel that it’s overly touristy. There are just as many Belgians out for a day trip on weekends as foreigners.

7. You can tour the city by boat. There are few cities that are lucky enough to be built around canals (hello, Venice) and snagging a boat tour is a perfect way to explore all the ins and out that Bruges has to offer. So when you’ve had enough of walking or riding, track down a canal tour.

Explore The World’s Tallest Building In Google Street View

Burj Khalifa on Google Street View
Nicolas Lannuzel

At 2722 feet in height, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the tallest building in the world and quite an impressive feat of modern engineering. Since its opening in 2010, the glass and metal spire has become an iconic structure, even managing to stand out in a city that is known for its over-the-top architecture. Most of us will probably never get an opportunity to see it in person, let alone step inside, but now, thanks to Google Street View, we can still explore the building in all of its glory.

Yesterday, Google added the Burj to the ever growing number of places that it has cataloged and put online as part of Street View. The building is the first ever skyscraper to make the cut and the first place in the Arab World to be added as well.

In order to capture the Burj for use in Street View, Google employees spent three days walking in and around the building while wearing the Trekker backpack. That device, which has been specially built for capturing places that the Street View cars can’t go, shoots 360° panoramic photos that are later incorporated into the system. In this case, it captured the view from the observation tower on the 124th floor as well as from the world’s highest swimming pool on the seventh floor, amongst various other locations throughout the building.

You can begin your exploration of the Burj by clicking here. But before you do, check out the video below that gives you a bit of a behind-the-scenes look at this amazing structure and the lengths Google had to go to capture it.