Airport architecture reaches important historic juncture

Posted in: Aviation, Buildings, Cultural Resources


1965: Architects Warren Heylman and William Trogdon designed the Spokane International Airport terminal building with a futuristic flair that included swooping concrete beams over the ticketing area. (photo courtesy of: The Spokesman-Review photo archive / SR)
1965: Architects Warren Heylman and William Trogdon designed the Spokane International Airport terminal building with a futuristic flair that included swooping concrete beams over the ticketing area. (photo courtesy of: The Spokesman-Review photo archive / SR)

Following World War II, influential and international architects were tapped to design terminals, control towers and other facilities at expanding airports across the country. Well-known examples of aviation architecture include Dulles International Airport Terminal and TWA Flight Center at JFK Airport, both designed by Eero Saarinen, and the former Terminal 6 at JFK Airport designed by I.M. Pei.

The historic importance of airport terminal architecture is particularly relevant because half of aviation’s history occurred within the past 50 years. The Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting Historic Aviation Properties outlines how to evaluate these properties that are of the recent past.

The application of National Register Criterion G to aviation-related properties is exemplified by the terminal building at the Dulles Airport. This terminal, built in 1962, was determined to be eligible for listing in the National Register only 16 years later. The main terminal was found to be eligible because the “building’s exceptional architectural importance was immediately recognized as one of the most important post-World War II American architectural masterpieces and one of the most innovative airport designs.”

Lesser known examples of post-war terminal design are also being recognized. An example is the Spokane International Airport terminal built in 1965 in the Neo-Expressionism style and designed by Warren C. Heylman and William Trogdon. The terminal is one of many post-war buildings featured in the Washington State Historic Preservation Office’s “Nifty from the Last 50 Initiative”. The initiative is an effort to recognize and record the state’s Mid-Century Modern resources.

Guidelines for Evaluating and Nominating Properties that have Achieved Significance Within the Past 50 Years offers relevant National Register guidance.

To learn more about the preservation of post-war resources, see Architecture of the recent past: Why care? blog article by Liz Boyer.


Christina Slattery

About the Author

Christina Slattery specializes in historic preservation of transportation and engineering structures. She evaluates the significance of properties ranging from missile defense systems to road corridors, and develops creative mitigation strategies for projects.

Read more posts by Christina Slattery

2 responses on “Airport architecture reaches important historic juncture

  1. Hi Christina, unfortunately the Spokane airport has seen quite a few changes over the years. But you can still see aspects of the original design, particularly if you know what you are looking for!

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