RESOLVE, REJUVENATE, RESTORE–a theme for a New Year yes, but one additionally embodied in the TWA Hotel project at JFK International Airport. Our Seismic Colorseal expansion joint material plays a small but critical role in sealing some of the tapering, varying, compound curved junctions in Eero Saarinen’s masterpiece the TWA Flight Center. This icon of art and architecture has now been magnificently restored, reimagined and repurposed in a bold and inspired project by MCR/Morse Development as the TWA Hotel.
A 90-minute layover left time for a self-guided tour—just enough to marvel at the genius of this work and to see why accolades continue to be heaped on this project. The space is inspiring. Saarinen’s soaring thin-shell concrete ceilings and complementary curved columns and cantilevers defy gravity and give the sense that the structure is buoyed up by air. No detail has been spared in featuring the mid-mod magnificence of the age and Saarinen’s iconic tulip furniture is prominently present and elegantly reechoed in the hotel rooms of Beyer Blinder Belle’s two new flanking hotel room towers. These structures are connected to the original oval concrete sky bridges into which connecting curtainwall walks have been added. It’s at these junctures that Seismic Colorseal shines. Non-invasively anchored, compressible, insulating, watertight and with the ability to size-switch to accommodate varying joint widths, the precompressed foam sealant expansion joint from Emseal uniquely addresses the many design challenges of these complex connections.
Curtainwall Concrete Tapered Expansion Joints
Step off the TWA Hotel elevator from the Jet Blue Terminal at JFK and you’re met immediately with the stunning visual of the skybridge to the hotel. The marriage of new curtainwall with the curved perimeter of the concrete tunnel poses a unique sealing problem.
Curved Expansion Joints
Curved expansion joints compounded by tapering can be dealt with using a precompressed foam sealant like Seismic Colorseal. Prior to the availability of this ground breaking hybrid sealant of impregnated foam and silicone, strip seals and extruded compression seals would have been impossible to install to function while looped rubber membranes would have left the joints uninsulated. In this case double-sided Seismic Colorseal-DS was used which adds the further benefit of being customizable to the depth of the curtainwall mullion so that both sides of the joint can be sealed with a single product in a single installation. And, the additional depth only works to enhance the R-Value and the already exceptional sound attenuation value of the material. With an OITC of 38 at standard depth and 52 at 6-inches (150mm) of depth, there is no chance that these junctions will be flanking paths for exterior noise common to airports.
R-value, non-invasive anchoring and the ability to bend in both planes make Seismic Colorseal uniquely suited to sealing joints in curtainwall, concrete, or any substrate–curved or straight. Irregularities in the rough substrates on the concrete are easily handled as well. The pliability of the foam-and-silicone-hybrid combined with the stored strain energy of compression inherent the precompressed foam backing ensure a complete seal regardless of variations in joint surface.
Elimination of Tension Key to Performance in Moving Joints
The difference between the ability of a precompressed foam sealant and traditional “caulk-and-backer rod” to handle varying widths in moving joints is evident in this image. This can be easily be remedied with the replacement of the liquid sealant with Colorseal-On-A-Reel which provides the benefits of Seismic Colorseal but for smaller joints. The precompressed nature of the product and resulting silicone bellows means the sealing system is free of tension — both at the bond line and in the cured elastomer across the joint gap. Adhesion in tension is the primary cause of failure in conventionally installed sealant joints. Elimination of tension ensures longevity, eliminates the need for regular replacement, results in lowest-total-cost-of-ownership expansion joints available. Longer lifespan means lower cost of operation, less patron disruption from construction activity and noise, and less waste from removal and replacement.
Skybridge to Hotel Junction Expansion Joints
Architect Beyer Blinder Belle’s artful choice of vertically-fluted precast provides a complementary contrast to the curves of the original TWA Flight Center with the end walls of the new flanking hotel room wings The blackened glass curtainwall on the elevations of the room wings bookends the flight-center centerpiece–staging Saarinen’s masterpiece as the focal point.
Watertight, Insulated, Moving - Skybridge Expansion Joints
Seismic Colorseal once again shines in the complex demands of the skybridge to hotel-room wings. The requirement to be installed at inside corners, between two different substrates (alumimun and concrete), the need for continuity of seal at outside corner transitions all but rules out strip-seal or other joint sealing options.
Inspiring, Soaring, Interior
The interior of the former flight center is as awe inspiring as the exterior. The thin-shell concrete structure, catanary curves, cantilevers, curvaceous columns and plinths, and tulip tables and chairs–all signatures of Eero Saarinen–have been preserved and placed with curated care in this living homage to original intent and to the high style of the 1960’s. Anyone with an interest or passion for architecture, art, aviation, or appreciation for the challenges of an intentional built environment, can’t possibly help but be moved by being present in this space.
No Detail Spared
The exterior elevations from every angle are a feast for the eyes and mind–from the front and side, to the spectacularly cantilevered portico. No detail in this restoration has been spared. The Lockheed Constellation (now a cocktail lounge) with attending baggage train are just some of the many transcendent details chosen to make a stay or a visit to the TWA Hotel a fully immersive experience–a must see for anyone in any way associated with the built environment or merely inspired by art, aviation, ingenuity, or commitment to preservation and adaptive reuse.