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Airport Design that moves you emotionally, today and tomorrow

May 24, 2010

By Dian Hasan | May 22, 2010

Kansai International Airport, Osaka, Japan

Design: Renzo Piano, Italy and Noriake Okabe, Japan. Completed: 1994

Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano, Kansai was the largest air terminal in the world when it was opened in 1994. When Renzo Piano first visited the site for the new Kansai airport, he had to travel by boat from Osaka harbor. There was no land to build on. Instead, the airport was constructed on an artificial man-made island resting on piles. Inspired by this challenge, Piano drew sketches of a large glider landing on the proposed island. He then modeled his plan for the airport after the shape of an airplane with corridors stretching out like wings from a main hall.

Renzo Piano and Noriaki Okabe. Kansai has the distinction as the longest airport terminal in the world: 1.7 km. An advanced people mover system called “Wing Shuttle” moves passengers from one end to the other.

In the world of architecture, airports command an interesting challenge. They are concurrently showcases of efficiency, cathedrals of awe, hubs of human and flying machine activities, and cocoons of security. The challenge that rests on the shoulders of designer, engineers, programmers, security specialists, and an unending host of other specialists with specific skill sets must be able to capture all this and package into an edifice that can move people, both literally and figuratively.

Airport design is all about connecting emotionally with the international travel community, which translates into anyone, anywhere, at any time. Practically the entire human race, first-time air travelers and seasoned frequent flyers. Here’s a glimpse of the latest in contemporary airport design from around the world.

There’s so much potential to improve airline travel in so many ways with the creation of a better experience, deliver a sense of freedom that was previously unavailable to all but the wealthiest of travelers. Sustainability and energy efficiency are extremely important. There’s a trend of pushing cars farther away from the terminals and improving access to public transit with better rail links and easy-to-use connections. Quieter airplanes make it possible to close the distance between city and airport, which will cut down transit times.

Today’s architects must reconsider the basic structure of airports. If they land planes on an incline to assist in deceleration and have runways end on top of the terminals to eliminate the need for taxiing, they can save billions of gallons of fuel each day. It’s not that radical of an idea. They can utilize the concept to make airports more efficient.

As anyone who has been to Boston, Berlin, Bali, Brisbane, Bogota, or Bamako will attest, travel is more than the mere experience of going somewhere. Travel design must convey the complex messages of: place, pleasure, and international exchange.

Terminals are the Taj Mahals of travel design. The best are those that can convey gateways to an optimistic future. Like a cathedral, the terminal’s inspires a feeling of exaltation before sending you on your way. It is a focus of constant motion, and yet the traveler is encouraged to pause for a quick bite, a gourmet meal or a relaxing cocktail, or just to sit on a comfortable bench and gape at the terminal’s celestial ceiling, upon which the cosmos have been painted.

There will never be a final word on airport design, as airports are in a constant state of flux. New terminals are built in response to new complications, such as increased traffic and heightened security. Old terminals, no matter how beautiful, are continually modified.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 24, 2010 10:53 am

    Today airports all around the world demand high level of design in an effective manner. The design should be such that the visitors would love to come again and again.
    Brisbane Airport is guaranteed to set the perfect opening scene for your Brisbane experience. Its a modern, fresh, super-efficient hub of activity, and it’s conveniently located just 20 minutes from the city centre.

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