When I was asked to design a fence for the American Airlines Terminal and later Terminal One at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, NY, I turned to history, as I had for the fence at P.S. 234, and to Edgar Brandt’s Art Deco relief frieze for the Chanin Building on East 42nd Street. I loved the way Brandt worked imagery into a background motif of flowing wave and cloud forms. For JFK, I drew on Brandt’s recurring spiral as I planned a background of cloud forms for silhouetted plane imagery that suggested the development of passenger aviation.
The lead panel shows a man standing next to his Model T car, looking up at an early plane in the sky above him. I enjoyed imagining that the man, very proud of his new-fangled contraption, had been driving when he suddenly saw, for the first time, the Wright brothers’ plane overhead and realized with a sinking feeling that he didn’t have the newest thing after all. Other panels depict later planes key to the history of passenger flight.
For the 4,000-linear-foot design, I sought to create the sense of a panorama, again, as with P.S. 234. To do that, I needed to avoid obvious repetition. Working with a discrete number of designs for the five-foot-long panels, I created a linear pattern for the cloud forms that allowed them to meet up and flow with the lines of more than one adjacent panel. This increased the variability of the overall design, enhancing the panoramic effect.