Airport Terminal Building Design, Air Travel Architectural Article, Transport

The Future of Air Travel

Architecture Design Discussion – article by Brian Carter, Buffalo, NY, USA

Aug 1, 2018

Airport Architecture Past & Present

The Future of Air Travel – The Monthly Report

July was a record breaking month for the number of passengers using London’s major airport in 2017. And, with better ‘load factors’ and larger aircraft operating from its 2 runways, the number of flights apparently did not increase.

Consequently July is also the time when those familiar images presented by airlines that show calm and cool passengers lounging in spacious, half empty aircraft on finely upholstered seats while looking over carefully set trays of china, fine food and the seemingly inevitable glass of sparkling bubbly are suddenly confronted by reality – flights packed full with passengers herded on, squeezed into ever narrower seats and presented with plastic enhanced dinners thrust onto wobbly trays for, by then, equally wobbly travellers.

Smooth air travel is gone. Replaced by crowds and scramble, patted down passengers are coralled in congested and uncomfortable spaces on terra firma before being acknowledged once on board the flight as members of the airline ‘family’ who are welcomed to ‘join our journey’.

The majority of passengers flying out of London’s Heathrow apparently head for the golden west via New York – another place where civility and service are equally hard to find.

La Guardia, JFK International and Newark airports have been recently identified as ‘third world’ facilities and arriving travelers there are confronted by harassed staff working in buildings that have grown in ad hoc fashion. As a consequence they consist of overcrowded spaces that are poorly built and confusing.

This is all the more surprising in the place where air travel was popularized and ideas of speed, smooth flow and easy movement valued. These characteristics were embraced enthusiastically by architects and clients alike and provided foundations for contemporary design in the 20th century.

JFK Airport Terminal 6 Building, New York
JFK Airport Terminal 6 Building
photo from PCFP

Speed, flow and movement were arguably most clearly signaled in the designs for airports in New York and Washington DC. The terminal for Trans World Airways at JFK in New York, complete with furnishings by Charles and Ray Eames is perhaps the most well-known while Eero Saarinen ’s other design for the remarkable Dulles Airport in Washington DC is still detectable under layers of ill-considered ‘improvements’. And at about the same time, Minoru Yamasaki designed a sequence of elegant barrel vaulted spaces that continue to suggest a truly civic space for the airport in St.Louis.

However since then architects and clients in America have hardly contributed significantly to the architecture of flight – though the airport in Detroit, perhaps inspired by Renzo Piano’s elegant design for Kansai, presents one encouraging alternative.

Eero Saarinen’s TWA Terminal at JFK is still a remarkable sign of glamour and romance in the jet age. Opened in 1962 but shuttered since 2001 the building is now being restored under the supervision of Beyer Blinder Belle Architects and will serve as the lobby for a new 505 bedroom hotel due to open in 2019.

So perhaps next year’s July air travelers should plan their itineraries now and forget the fear of flying in order to check in at TWA?

American Airport Buildings

Brian Carter, a registered architect in the UK, is Professor of Architecture at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York.
Brian Carter
Brian Carter

Airport Buildings

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US Airport Building Designs

San Francisco International Airport, California
Gensler, Architects
San Francisco International Airport
photo © Bruce Damonte
San Francisco International Airport

Raleigh-Durham International Airport Terminal 2, North Carolina
Fentress Architects
Raleigh-Durham International Airport
picture Nick Merrick © Hedrich Blessing
RDU Terminal 2

Tampa International Airport – Airside C, Florida
Alfonso Architects
Tampa International Airport Airside C Florida
photo : Al Hurley
Airside C Tampa International Airport

Denver International Airport South Terminal Redevelopment, Colorado
Santiago Calatrava
Denver Airport Building
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Denver Airport Development

Indianapolis Airport Terminal, Indiana
Indianapolis Airport Terminal
photo : Sam Fentress / HOK
Indianapolis Airport Terminal

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Articles by Brian Carter – Selection

Both-And Architecture

Monumental shifts/New World Orders
Heydar Aliyev Centre
photograph : Hufton + Crow

Real Synthetic Architecture

Old World / New World Architecture

Performance Architecture

American Airport Buildings

Key American Airport Buildings

Mineta San Jose Airport Concourse, San Jose, California
Design: Gensler
Mineta San Jose Airport

TWA Terminal, New York City, NY
Design: Eero Saarinen Architect
TWA Terminal building

TWA Terminal building

New York State Architecture Designs

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Spaceport America, New Mexico
Design: Foster + Partners
Spaceport America
image : Foster + Partners
Spaceport America

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