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Flying the 'Skyline of the World'

(January 2008) posted on Thu Jan 10, 2008

Skyscrapers adorn airport terminal mural.

click an image below to view slideshow

By Peggy Middendorf

When the new American Airlines terminal at JFK International Airport in New York City opened in late August, the $1.3 billion project boasted nearly 1.5 million square feet of floor space, 36 gates, two Admirals Clubs, a Flagship Lounge, and the ability to handle 12.8 million travelers a year.

None of these hold a candle, however, to the terminal’s most striking feature: a wall mural that American commissioned. In the spirit of the terminal setting itself above and beyond its peers, this is not just any mural. Conceived and created by renowned architect and artist Matteo Pericoli, the mural-titled, Skyline of the World-measures 52 x 400 feet and blankets the east wall of the main ticketing lobby. It depicts more than 400 landmarks from 70 cities around the world, including the Sydney Opera House, Seattle Needle, Toronto City Hall, Fuji TV Building, Eiffel Tower, and the Brooklyn Bridge-destinations for many of American Airlines’ regular flights.

It was important, says Mark DuPont, American’s managing director at JFK, "To show customers that this is a unique facility offering features that will serve the needs of millions of domestic and international travelers. Skyline of the World blends perfectly with the style and dramatic design of our new terminal."

Some inherent issues

For months, Pericoli sketched his vision, drawing it onto a 20-foot-long paper scroll. Then, when it came to converting his hand-drawn images to digital and then printing the massive mural, he tapped Professional Graphics Inc. (PGI) of Rockford, Illinois, which he had previously worked with on several projects.

To precisely convert this drawing to a 400-foot mural, the details had to be perfect. PGI first tried scanning in the artwork using a wide-format architectural scanner, but that didn’t provide the necessary image for this project. "After producing some test files, we realized fairly quickly that the digital-photography route was best for this project," says Patrick Goley, PGI’s CEO.

PGI turned to its Hasselblad camera, using it in conjunction with a 22-megapixel Sinarback 54 digital back, to capture the image. In all, 21 sections were captured, each measuring 12 x 18 inches. "The camera was able to pick up all of the important details contained in the artwork without over-emphasizing the inherent texture and grain that was natural to the substrate," says Goley. The sections were then stitched together in Adobe Photoshop.