by Michael R. Allen
One can almost smell the jet fuel exhaust in this vivid night time postcard view of the Lambert Airport Main Terminal Building from 1968. Streaks of red record the passage of jets on their way to and from what was then a hub for passenger travel. Behind all of the hustle and bustle, then as now, was modern architecture’s first American airport terminal masterpiece.
Completed in 1956, Lambert’s terminal and its thin-shell concrete domes designed by Minoru Yamasaki of Hellmuth Yamasaki and Leinweber became the forerunner of jet-set terminal style. At John F. Kennedy and Dulles, Eero Saarinen would carry this high standard forward. Other architects joined the pursuit to create enobling, structurally progressive modern terminals until the drama — and peculiar bliss — of airline travel would be mushed into a middling realm of tepid architecture, placeless chain-shop concourses, discount carriers and clumsy, invasive security procedures. But in St. Louis, at least we still come and go at Lambert, where the sublime remains part of the spatial experience. Happy travels this weekend!