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News May 2010

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Pei Building in Peril: National Airlines/Terminal 6 at JFK

May 19, 2010

On April 29 the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced not an ambitious building plan, but a $42 million demolition program. Lumped in with six cargo buildings and five hangers is Terminal 6 designed by I.M. Pei and Partners. Pei’s design won a blind competition in 1962 and the building was completed in 1970. The terminal escaped earlier threats of demolition after being adopted by JetBlue airlines in 2000. Now that JetBlue has a new terminal next door, Terminal 6 is back on the Port’s demolition list.

Originally known as the “National Airlines Sundrome,” the building’s two-story window walls are suspended from a space frame roof supported by monumental exterior concrete columns. The extensive use of glass for an airline terminal was new at the time and set a trend that continues today; the use of glass mullions on those walls was a first in the U.S. The building was modified for 747s as it neared completion and has proven adaptable over the years. That it handled millions of passengers as recently as October 2008 does argue against its complete obsolescence. We’ll follow up with news and activity as we find it. In the meantime see our 2003 newsletter article for background on the building and the recent blast by Air Cargo News’s “Flying Typers” for photos and more commentary.
National Air – DOCOMOMO newsletter Summer 2003.pdf

Pei Cobb Freed and Partners