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I.M. Pei's Terminal 6 set for demolition

The first thing you notice when you enter Terminal 6 at JFK is the sheer amount of space and a freedom of movement not typically associated with crowded airports. But I. M Pei’s design was carefully constructed to give a hectic space a light and airy feel. To do this he used huge expanses of glass uninterrupted from floor to ceiling by the use of glass mullions, or glass frames, instead of metal ones – an unprecedented innovation. He and his team also developed a new kind of drainage system that feeds in through the building’s exterior concrete columns instead of the typical indoor method that would have marred the otherwise glorious view of his glass walls. Still more important is the way Pei’s design managed congestion, which was becoming an issue as consumer travel increased in the late 60s. Up until the construction of Terminal 6 all airports grouped the space for arriving and departing travelers together, creating traffic jams and confusion. It seems absurdly simple now, but by separating the two Pei’s terminal was vastly quieter, calmer and more organized – and all airports built since then have adopted it.

Despite the terminal’s beauty and efficiency, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have announced its intention to tear it down, and since the terminal doesn’t have landmark status, they just might. Port Authority calls the building “obsolete” and that it does not prudently use resources. The demolition will cost about $42.3 million and is estimated to save $1.7 million each year thereafter. As you might expect, preservationists like DOCOMOMO are up in arms, citing “the terminal’s expansive, clear-span pavilion space, a style that set a precedent for later I.M. Pei building’s such as the Louvre Museum’s pyramid and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.” The race is now on to designate the terminal as a landmark before 2011.