Revolution in the air

Digging 50 years of Beatlemania in North America helps to unearth a Canadian cultural treasure in Allison Crowe’s home province on the Atlantic. The Beatles landing at New York City’s JFK International in February 1964 was emblematic of the new – the “jet set” – a revolution in air travel that made it possible for jet planes to cross the Atlantic in record times. In the era of propeller planes and the refuelling stop-overs needed to make the trip between Europe and the USA, the key North American terminal – GIA – was located in Gander, Newfoundland.

Gander International’s VIP Lounge played host to Albert Einstein, Marlene Dietrich, Fidel Castro, Frank Sinatra, Winston Churchill and Jackie O., among countless others, during those years GIA was popularly known as the “Crossroads of the World”.

Then a thriving global hub, in 1959 a new terminal opened and its construction and furniture featured creativity of leading designers – including chairs by Charles and Ray Eames -http://eamesoffice.com/charles-and-ray , “Primasteel” seating by Robin Bush, and a six-foot mural painted by Kenneth Lochhead – http://www.kennethlochhead.com

Gander International Airport – departure lounge photographed by Zach Bonnell

The advent of jet travel, however, soon redirected the flow of international air travel. With Gander facilities no longer bustling, it’s uniquely preserved a “time capsule” quality. Today, GIA is viewed as a marvel by art historians, architects and design aficionados – ”It’s still one of the most beautiful, most important Modernist rooms in the country, if not the most important,” says Alan C. Elder, Curator, Canadian Crafts and Design, at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec. (Recently renamed, the Canadian Museum of History is this nation’s most-visited museum).

Gander, and such nearby communities as Lewisporte, Twillingate and more, earned international renown in 2001 as GIA became haven for dozens of international aircraft grounded when airspace was shut-down in the wake of the 9/11 NYC attacks. The character of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians opening their hearts and homes to thousands of people – flight passengers and crew – during the crisis is legend – http://www.snopes.com/rumors/gander.asp#smvFTOCIkq43PMEj.99

Less-known, across even its home and native land, is how Gander long-served as “Crossroads of the World”. Awareness of GIA’s style is enjoying a renaissance in our internet age – with features in The New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/20/travel/tmagazine/20TGANDER.html , Institute http://www.instituteartist.com/feature-Gander-Airport-Simon-Norfolk , “dwell” magazine – http://www.dwell.com/rewind/article/aviation-preservation – and more – http://itraveltree.com/virgin-atlantic-welcome-to-um-gander-canada

Most recently, Bloomberg’s high-end “Pursuits”, (a publication “for the world’s richest people”) put Gander International on its cover, with a fashion shoot – http://ca.zinio.com/reader.jsp?issue=416276333&WT.mc_id=PUB_COM_DISC_GLOBAL_082813_Pursuits_Fall13 – calling it “the world’s coolest airport”.

GIA image – showing mural – from series by Zach Bonnell on flickr

In a fab, 18-photo, flickr gallery, Zach Bonnell of St. John’s, NL is our guide on a magical mystery tour of GIA @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachbonnell/sets/72157623762605690

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