By Roz Hamlett, Portfolio Editor
The iconic TWA Flight Center opened recently to the public for a last and intimate look at the terminal before it’s adapted into a conference center and hotel by a private developer.
Designed by celebrated Finnish architect, Eero Saarinen, a mention of the flight center is enough to make airport history buffs and fans of architecture applaud its enduring symbol of an upward bound America during the dawning of the jet age.
Closed since 2001, the fantastical flight center, now a national landmark, opened in 1962, the same year not coincidentally that the Hanna-Barbera futuristic-inspired cartoon, The Jetsons, was broadcast in living rooms throughout the nation.
Just the opening lyrics to its catchy theme “Meet George Jetson. . .” is enough to trigger a flashback of childhood memories for fans of the cartoon series and the feature-length movie, a couple generations later. Who among us hasn’t known a grouchy, but good-hearted boss like Mr. Spaceley?
Still, it’s a little surprising that the world of Orbit City – where George, Jane, Judy, Elroy, Astro and Rosie dwell in a skyhigh penthouse – can claim legitimate architectural roots to no less than the venerable and historically significant TWA Flight Center through the school of futuristic architecture known as “Googie.”
Googie architecture, which later became widely known as the Mid-Century School of Modern Architecture – was named after Googie’s Coffee Shop in West Hollywood – a style that was influenced by car culture, jets, the Space Age and the Atomic Age. Its features included upswept roofs, geometric shapes and the bold use of glass, steel and neon. Its legacy of design can be seen in rocket ship designs, tailfins, boomerangs, flying saucers, atoms and, most notable of all, the dramatic and glamorous interior and exterior of the TWA Flight Center.