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01/08/2018

Airport as the architecture of the future, or gateway to the sky

The modern airport is not just the last word of architecture, but the most futuristic genre that anticipates urban development trends in the future. Air communication today can boast not only excellent development, but also great prospects – in unison say the representatives of the aviation industry and tourism business – after all, despite all sorts of crises, the flow of passengers increases. The flights made the world small and compact, globalization paces the planet with seven-league steps, so the importance of the airport cannot be overestimated. In total there are about 49 thousand of them in the world, and only five countries do not have their air gates – Andorra, San Marino, Vatican, Monaco and Liechtenstein.

Airport as the architecture of the future

From the very beginning of its development, aviation embodied progress, proving that a person, without wings, can fly, nevertheless. When, after the Second World War, the Boeing Company appeared in the 1960s, and the United States lifted the embargo on commercial flights, civil aviation began to develop at an incredible speed and became a symbol of overcoming time and space. On this high note, architects created the most advanced ideas at the time. Of course, they quickly became outdated – in particular, in scale (as the number of passengers is constantly increasing) – but, in spite of this, they added to themselves a treasury of classical architecture of the 20th century. At the work of Eero Saarinen in New York and Renzo Piano in Japanese Kansai is very interesting to watch now.

Of course, designing airports is one of the most difficult tasks in the practice of architects, as they have to solve a lot of additional problems outside of architectural tasks. When an architectural bureau takes up such a project, it cannot do it at its own discretion – the team of architects employs federal aviation bureaus and air navigation experts, acoustics companies, signs, luggage and many others.

First and foremost, not every place is suitable for an airport, – an area for runways is required, which is significantly larger than any other building for the approaching transport (including the metro and railway), as well as the landscape suitable for all this. This is only one of the airport zones – and there is also a terminal with passenger traffic, luggage space, parking and entrances for airplanes, and each of these zones requires architectural optimization according to its unique methods.

Actually, in the projects themselves, architects for the most part follow one idea. As Norman Foster put it, “like airports in the past, airports are modern analogues of the front gate to the country, it is often at the airport that you get first impressions from it, so airports should amaze and inspire.” This idea in the language of architecture looks like an appeal to the main (often banal and hypertrophied) symbols and traditions of the country – the same Foster made the airport in Beijing in the form of a dragon.

In addition, architects are inspired by more abstract symbols, such as, for example, “sky”, “clouds”, “horizon” – and build glass cubes. This aroused public debate about the fact that all airports are the same in their sterile whiteness, inconvenience and anxiety. Discomfort passengers and the complexity of the work of architects increased the increased security requirements approved after the September 11 attacks. When designing a terminal, the architect must take into account every possible range of metal detectors, observation points that inevitably violate the integrity of space and make it not so inspiring for passengers.

In the work on the space of the terminal, the architect deals with the construction of colossal dimensions, which must accommodate masses of people. Thus, Atlanta International Airport, which since 1998 holds the first place in the list of the busiest airports in the world, allows 101 million people a year, that is, 260 thousand people a day.

Paradoxically, the architect’s task in organizing the terminal space is to reduce it – creating a network of floors, levels and transitions so that the passenger spends as little time and effort as possible from one gate to another. In fact, the architect plays three-dimensional “points”, connecting the “lines” of escalators and galleries routes, for example, from the A12 to the D84 – and all this is called “flow divider”.

At the same time, it is important not to forget that with such a massive zoning, the ventilation of the premises can be a big problem. After all, you must have noticed how stuffy it can be in the terminal. In addition to purely spatial zoning, the most important role in the airport is played by all kinds of signs, departure / arrival tables – that’s why with the architectural bureaus special companies for the development of pointers always work.

In its filling the airport – a universal place, there is absolutely everything. As passengers have to spend a lot of time in the terminal in connection with the strengthening of security control, shops, bistros and restaurants, chapels and galleries of contemporary art, hotels and offices became an indispensable attribute of the airport.

In fact, the airport today combines all the functions of the city space, so at the beginning of the third millennium the term “aerotropolis”, that is, the airport-city, appeared. Colossal nodal stations like the Amsterdam “Skipall” or the London “Heathrow” can boast of truly Gargantuan scale – for example, in Terminal 5 “Heathrow”, as claimed, retail space is larger in size than the entire Bond Street.

Naturally, the architects who now design the airports take into account the concept of “aerotropolis” and comprehend the airport as a place for living not only functionally, but also landscape – it means special attention paid to the airport flora, filling it with jungle, like in a Singapore hub, or rivers, parks and aquariums, as in Vancouver.

This line continues the famous architect Moshe Safdi, who installed in the Chinese “Changi” a massive glass dome with a waterfall and a garden in the center of the terminal. What about the fauna, the “Gensler” bureau said on this topic, having come up with the idea of a pet terminal with a SPA-resort for our pets at the John F. Kennedy airport in New York.

In general, in new airport projects, the idea of progress is most clearly traced and, as a consequence, the most daring futuristic plans are here – the colossal alluvial islands for the airport, and the runways at the height of the skyscraper right in the city (which, incidentally, is now prohibited), and towers Air navigation, characterized by fluid bionic forms and incredible colors.

However, this is not a matter of one decade – the current master plans will not be built very soon, and by that time, perhaps, we will start flying to space on a regular basis, and the theme of spaceport architecture will become more relevant.

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