sinuous lines

IMG_3154The former TWA Terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport is a significant example of 20th-Century modern architecture and engineering. A masterpiece of sinuous lines actualized out of poured concrete, it was designed by the mid-century modernist Eero Saarinen. Opened in 1962 it was the final terminal built at what was then called New York International Airport, as well as one of Saarinen’s last projects. Revolutionary and influential, it was Saarinen’s intention that the terminal express the excitement of travel and “reveal the terminal as a place of movement and transition.” Fifty years after the fact it remains as exciting and forward-looking as ever. And dare I say it, soignee. When was the last time an airport – or any public building for that matter – made you feel sexy? Saarinen’s building does just that, while sweeping you up in the promise and possibility of a future that, unfortunately, never quite came to pass. After laying dormant for over a decade, it was recently announced that the terminal would be developed into a luxury hotel. Thanks to Open House New York, yesterday was one of those last-chance opportunities to experience the building in full – before getting caught up in the inevitable tide of transition.

TWA terminal

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titanic town

Titanic Belfast is the city’s new “must see” attraction – and it’s a wonder how it took the city leaders so long to exploit the worldwide fascination with the most famous maritime disaster of all time. Rising on the slipways where both RMS Olympic and Titanic were built, the distinctive building takes obvious inspiration from both a ship’s prow and the refracted gleam of ice. Drawing together special effects, full-scale reconstructions, and innovative interactive features across nine galleries, the Titanic story is explored in a fresh and insightful way; from her conception in Belfast in the early 1900s, through her construction and launch, to her infamous maiden voyage and catastrophic demise. The journey goes beyond the aftermath of the sinking, too, to the discovery of the wreck and continues into the present day with a live undersea exploration centre. We all think we know the Titanic story but to a large extent we are well acquainted with only a very small sliver: the ill-fated maiden voyage. What I found most interesting at Titanic Belfast was context so often missing from any modern retellings: in the early 20th Century Belfast was enjoying the greatest boom in its history. The city was a global leader in engineering, ship-building and linen manufacturing, and Belfast’s Harland and Wolff had become the largest shipyard in the world. It was this thriving local industry along with innovations in design that led to the creation of RMS Titanic and it’s sister ship, Olympic. Special effects, animations and full-scale reconstructions bring to life the reality of shipbuilding in the early 1900’s: a superhuman undertaking of skilled labor, brute force, and engineering prowess.  Beyond that it delves into the ship’s launch - a large window overlooking the actual slipways is fitted with state-of-the-art glass containing electrodes that switch from the normal view to a superimposed image of the Titanic on the slipways for a unique perspective of how the ship would have appeared – custom fit-out, the sinking and the aftermath. It even finds time to explore the multitude of myths and legends surrounding Titanic’s story before depositing visitors in a gift shop burdened by extraordinarily bad taste. But no bother, Titanic Belfast isn’t so much a story of tragedy but one of triumph: after all, once upon a time Boomtown Belfast built the largest and most luxurious ship in the world.

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not quite the peak

Perched on the Peak at almost 1,000 feet above sea level, the Peak Tower is one of Hong Kong’s  most recognizable architectural icons, featured on millions of postcards and key chains. While not exactly on par with the Eiffel Tower or Empire State Building, it nevertheless makes an enduring statement – and stylish emblem -  of the British Empire’s belief in man’s dominance over nature. More than just a scenic viewing platform, the Peak Tower is the upper terminus of the Peak Tram, the first funicular in Asia and a late 19th century triumph of engineering. (Prior to the building of the tram most people were carried up and down via sedan chair.) And although the Peak isn’t technically even atop Victoria Peak but rather situated alongside it in Victoria Gap, that fact does nothing to diminish its building. Moreover, in a city that prides itself on developing ever taller and more spectacular vantage points, nothing quite compares to the Peak’s utterly old school outdoor panorama.

 

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