Building Structures- Case Studies & Concepts

Single Abstract

343222 - The TWA Flight Center – A Case Study in Iconic Building Revitalization

Friday, April 20
1:30 PM - 3:00 PM
Location: 203BC

Opened in 1962, the iconic Trans World Airlines (TWA) Flight Center at John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport in New York represented the gold standard in building design as an emblem of the successfully growing US aviation system. The reinforced concrete shell structure and the interior amorphous concrete walls and slabs pushed the boundaries of conventional engineering and construction techniques, allowing the architect Eero Saarinen to expose a unique style of architecture. In 2005 the National Park Service listed the TWA Flight Center on the National Register of Historic Places, but it has since been left unused. This paper presents an overview of the historic building structure and the structural modifications being undertaken to repurpose the building into a new hotel and conference center.

This fully integrated redesign aims to reuse and refurbish many of the MEP, structural and architectural systems to meet current standards. The design life of the original structure is being extended by leveraging the existing sculptural form to meet its new function. The design team is emphasizing the beauty of the original concrete structure in two distinct ways. First: by hiding as much of the new program as possible under ground in the form of a deep buried basement conference center. Second: by borrowing the shape, texture and materiality from the original Saarinen design and transferring it to the two new adjacent hotel wings.

The deep basement program requires complex sequencing analysis and construction techniques associated with dewatering and temporary support of excavation directly adjacent to the original timber piled foundations. Limited differential settlements in the basement mat are understood through site specific geo-structural interaction analysis. New piles have been eliminated on the majority of the new build, allowing for a simplified excavation and construction.

The eight story hotel wings are limited in height relative to the flight center, so as not to dominte the visual landscape. Thin concrete flat slabs and tightly coordinated ceilings allow for this compact design. Strict acoustic requirements call for quadruple glazed curtain-wall units to keep quiet hotel rooms in a loud airport environment. The installation of a cogeneration plant and a swimming pool on the hotel roofs also present unique structural design challenges.

The latest 3D technology was leveraged throughout the project, including point cloud scanning, combined with Revit models of the structure constructed from record drawing information.

Daniel Wilcoxon

Structural Engineer



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Jeremy Macht

Senior Structural Engineer



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Ian Buckley

Associate Principal


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343222 - The TWA Flight Center – A Case Study in Iconic Building Revitalization

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