LaGuardia Airport. That’s it, that’s the joke. Well, it was the joke. Once maligned as “America’s worst,” the airport has now won a prestigious award for the best new airport. No, this isn’t a mistake.
Terminal B at LaGuardia Airport won UNESCO’s Prix Versailles in the Airports category. The Prix Versailles, organized by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, aims to recognize the most remarkable modern commercial architecture. The intention is to encourage form to coexist with function in commercial spaces.
While initially opened in 1939, LaGuardia Airport is currently in the midst of a $4 billion reconstruction project. In phases, a portion of a terminal is effectively demolished and rebuilt while airlines shift their operations to other parts of the airport. When one portion is completed, the process is repeated with another portion. This allows the airport to remain operational throughout construction.
In 2020, Terminal B was the first new structure to be completed. I’ve flown out of and into LaGuardia since Terminal B’s reopening, and it is truly night and day compared to the old LaGuardia. Passengers will no longer have to share cramped corridors with wandering pigeons. The new wide-open concourses are literally a breath of fresh air.
The terminal’s new architecture is undoubtedly deserving of praise. The brushed steel portals and linear lighting fixtures evoke the iconography of a science-fiction space station. Although, the high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows provide a feeling of warmth to what could have been a cold, sterile environment. The art installations in the terminal headhouse also give the airport a dash of local character to set the airport in New York City definitively.
LaGuardia Airport wasn’t the only New York City location to take home an award. The new Moynihan Train Hall at Penn Station also won a UNESCO Prix Versailles in the Passenger Train Stations category. LaGuardia Airport’s much-needed renovation has been the centerpiece of a new era of public architecture in the city. Bing bong!