The neon tunnel, which caused a sensation when unveiled 25 years ago, is aging well. Designed by Helmut Jahn and decorated with a neon installation called “The Sky’s the Limit” by Michael Hayden, it’s a fine example of eighties architecture, its fun-house sensibility eschewing seriousness and severity. With a rainbow-like palette and undulating walls and ceilings evoking puffy clouds, the space pays homage to the wonders of the sky, jazzed up by the beat of a neon-light rollout overhead that’s always changing. Accompanying the light show are curious pinging sounds that emanate from the walls. Some say it’s Gershwin.
The space is just colorful and active enough to be diverting without being too self-important or heavy. Its faux-psychedelic effect is just the right touch given the banality of the airport setting. Perhaps most important, it disguises the great length of the tunnel that passengers must traverse, re-imagining the trudge as something resembling a road trip in Oz.
The neon tunnel has been ranked 102nd on a list of America’s 150 favorite structures compiled by the American Institute of Architects.