Why are airports built for everyone — the city, the airlines, the retailers — except for the very people who use them the most: the passengers?Holbrook notes that one problem is the sheer number of people involved; these days things like lighting, temperature control, security, and so on are all designed by specialist engineering firms, and the design as a whole must run a fearful gamut of review boards.
One answer is a current trend of airport architecture that evokes an airport’s region and cityscape, yet doesn’t get bogged down in the small details of the interior design.
Read the proposals of top airport architects, and many of the words you’ll find could have been lifted from a travel brochure: “geology,” “prairie,” “landscapes,” “clouds,” “sun” and “horizon,” to name a few.
For a proposed terminal in Urumqi, China, architects at HKS were inspired by the “textures and lines” of the Silk Road.
For an airport completed in 2011 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the architect César Pelli cites the “landscape,” “expansive sky” and “faraway horizon” as the design’s point of departure.
“Like the great railway stations, airports are also the contemporary equivalents of gateways,” Norman Foster said in an interview in Icon magazine, referring to his airport in Beijing, which is shaped like a dragon. “Very often they represent your first experience of a city or country. In that sense, they have the potential to excite and inspire.”
But the main problem is that the structures are designed as soaring monuments first, and only second (or third or fourth) as decent places to catch a plane. Holbrook complains that one new airport he passed through recently had lighting too bright for sleeping but not bright enough for reading and hideously uncomfortable chairs, plus it was freezing and at his gate, there were only 32 chairs even though the plane held 150 people, and there was not a single outlet for recharging our all-important devices.
But the faraway horizon! From space it looks like a dragon! See how it soars!