Curiosities: The 11 Most Welcoming Airports in The World

16 May

Virginia Duran Blog- Amazing Airports- RETRO JFK Airport New York 1964 - actionlog flickrPicture of JFK Airport, 1964

No matter our destination, our chances of arriving by air are very high – our first impression of a city starts here. For this reason, airports are one of the architect’s greatest challenges. Despite not much change on floor plan dispositions, great variation in section has been made: bigger spans between structure and bigger open spaces. But what is it that makes us like an airport? With what exactly do we feel overwhelmed and at the same time comfortable?
After a lot of research amongst architects, friends and through my own experiences I have to conclude it is a combination of several things. First of all, light and space. We love arriving at big spaces where we can see and understand quickly where we are (which makes sense due to a lack of familiarity with the building). Then materials and their disposition. We tend to like concrete and steel on structures and travertine and other stone materials for floors, but also like to see warm materials like wood or fabrics (even if it is just on the seats). Nature also plays an important role. We enjoy some vegetation even if it is just on the exterior. For instance, we relate palm trees with summer, holidays and fun so even if we arrive in the winter season, we subconsciously connect fun and traveling if we see those. And finally, distances. We all hate them and if it takes too long to get to the baggage claim we’ll reach the exit complaining.
Following this classification, this is a collection of the airports that did best on the list and that are architecturally interesting as well (Vancouver’s Aquarium was not enough reason to include its airport for example). The list is personal and the order is random, they are equally welcoming. Other suggestions are kindly accepted!
_________________________________________________________________________________________Virginia Duran Blog- Amazing Airports- Menara MarrakechOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

1. Menara Airport
Location: Marrakech (Morocco)
Architect: E2A Architecture and CR Architecture
Year: 2008
Brief Description: The Marrakech airport was extended with a new contemporary wing, featuring an exterior of 24 concrete rhombuses, with glass printed ancient Islamic ornamental motives. The light atmosphere is very similar to an islamic mosque. Read more here.
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Virginia Duran Blog- Amazing Airports- Carrasco International Airport by Rafael Viñoly Exterior Virginia Duran Blog- Amazing Airports- Carrasco International Airport by Rafael Viñoly2. Carrasco International Airport
Location: Montevideo (Uruguay)
Architect: Rafael Viñoly Architects
Year: 2009
Brief Description: “This terminal provides great spaces for the people who aren’t traveling as well as those who are. The atrium, the main hall, the terrace, and the passenger concourse make this a dramatic and welcoming place for everyone.” Says Viñoly. Read more here.
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Incheon International AirportVirginia Duran Blog- Amazing Airports- Seoul Incheon International Airport Star Garden

3. Incheon International Airport
Location: Seoul (Korea)
Architect: Fentress Architects
Year: 2001
Brief Description: Clerestories and skylights bring enough daylight into the interior to allow the cultivation of traditional Korean gardens, which lend a peaceful and welcoming feel to the space and relates the airport to its rich cultural context. Read more here.
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Virginia Duran Blog- Amazing Airports- Beijing International Airport Exterior Virginia Duran Blog- Amazing Airports- Beijing International Airport Interior Virginia Duran Blog- Amazing Airports- Beijing International Airport4.  Beijing International Airport
Location: Beijing (China)
Architect: Foster + Partners
Year: 2008
Brief Description: Conceived on an unprecedented scale, this building is outstanding in terms of operational efficiency, passenger comfort, sustainability and access to natural light. Its spatial clarity makes people very comfortable. Read more here.
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Virginia Duran Blog- Richard Rogers + Estudio Lamela- ExteriorVirginia Duran Blog- Amazing Airports- t4 Madrid- Richard Rogers5.  Terminal 4, Barajas Airport
Location: Madrid (Spain)
Architect: Richard Rogers + Estudio Lamela
Year: 2004
Brief Description:  Transitions between spaces are considered as if a person changes time zones gingerly on a travel. The subtle change in colors punctuate this change. Light and transparency punch through the hill-like roof structure. Read more here.
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Virginia Duran Blog- Amazing Airports- TWA Terminal NY by Eero SaarinenVirginia Duran Blog- Amazing Airports- TWA Terminal NY by Eero Saarinen InteriorVirginia Duran Blog- Amazing Airports- TWA Terminal NY by Eero Saarinen Interior 26.  TWA Terminal
Location: New York (US)
Architect: Eero Saarinen
Year: 1962-2005
Brief Description:  The two satellites (designed by Saarinen), annex buildings which contained the gates, were demolished in 2006. The Head house is being renovated, partially encircled by and serving as a ceremonial entrance to a new adjacent terminal completed in 2008 and designed by Gensler. The old terminal is much more welcoming in my opinion. Read more here.
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Virginia Duran Blog- Amazing Airports- Chek Lap Kok Airport by Foster and Partners Exterior Virginia Duran Blog- Amazing Airports- Chek Lap Kok Airport by Foster and Partners7.  Chek Lap Kok Airport
Location: Hong Kong (China)
Architect: Foster + Partners
Year: 1998
Brief Description:  With its soaring spaces, bathed in daylight, the terminal building forms a spectacular gateway to the city. Whether arriving or departing, you know you are going to start well your journey. Read more here.
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Virginia Duran Blog- Amazing Airports- San Jose Airport by Fentress ArchitectsVirginia Duran Blog- Amazing Airports- San Jose Airport by Fentress Architects ExteriorVirginia Duran Blog- Amazing Airports- San Jose Airport by Fentress Architects Interior8.  Norman Y. Mineta S. Jose International Airport Terminal B
Location: San Jose (US)
Architect: Fentress Architects
Year: 2010
Brief Description:  Fentress Architects managed to design an intriguing form while still meeting the challenging seismological standards of California. A skin of curving ribbed or perforated metal panels covers the exterior of the terminal. The metal structure appears to wrap around, hugging and protecting, a glass tube within. Read more here.
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Virginia Duran Blog- Amazing Airports- Zurich by Grimshaw Architects Virginia Duran Blog- Amazing Airports- Zurich9.  Zurich Airport
Location: Zurich (Switzerland)
Architect: Grimshaw Architects
Year: 2003
Brief Description:  The longitudinal structure is graceful, yet monumental in scale. An aerodynamically curved steel roof, supported by steel A-Frames, spans the 250-metre passenger hall which makes contains retail, dining, and lounge facilities. Read more here.
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Virginia Duran Blog- Amazing Airports- Changi Singapore's Airport by SOMVirginia Duran Blog- Amazing Airports- Changi Singapore's Airport by SOM InteriorVirginia Duran Blog- Amazing Airports- Changi Singapore's Airport by SOM Interior-210.  Changi Airport Terminal 3
Location: Singapore (Singapore)
Architect: SOM Architects
Year: 2007
Brief Description:  An automatic light modulation system contains glass skylights and thousands of aluminum louvers. During the day, these louvers can be positioned to limit or increase the amount of light so that no artificial illumination is necessary. Light and nature are really well integrated. Read more here.
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Virginia Duran Blog- Amazing Airports- Dulles International Airport by Eero SaarinenVirginia Duran Blog- Amazing Airports- Dulles International Airport by Eero Saarinen ExteriorVirginia Duran Blog- Amazing Airports- Dulles International Airport by Eero Saarinen Interior11.  Dulles International Airport
Location: Washington D.C (US)
Architect: Eero Saarinen
Year: 1962
Brief Description:  Saarinen was chosen for his ability to provide graceful beauty, similar to the nature of flight. He had the typical challenge of providing graceful access to the building, encountered by automobile, entered and further accessed by foot. Read more here.
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Note: Interesting airports to be built: Oslo International Airport (Norway) by Narud Stokke Wiig or the new London Airport by Zaha Hadid. Other airports like  the SAG – Airport Building in Mestia (Georgia) by J. Mayer H. Architectsare are private but are interesting.
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25 Responses to “Curiosities: The 11 Most Welcoming Airports in The World”

  1. WM May 16, 2013 at 7:01 am #

    The best for me is Changi International Airport where ‘ Light and nature are really well integrated’.

    • Virginia Duran May 16, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

      That one is amazing! Well… all of them are to be honest, I couldn’t have a favourite one :)

  2. sharynni May 16, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    Hi Virginia. I love your posts. I am interested in a good read about architecture and I was wondering if you could recommend any books that you like. I know that’s kind of vague, but it could be about any style, era, or architect. I’d just like to learn more. ~ Sharyn

  3. Gallivanta May 16, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    Brilliant, brilliant post. Love it. I think it is not until you look at the airports like this,from a physical distance, that you appreciate their great architecture.

    • Virginia Duran May 16, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

      I am really glad that you liked the psychological approach! Also, it made me think about our first reactions towards architecture. New airports are being built so I’d have to update this list very soon.

      • Gallivanta May 16, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

        Looking forward to the updates.

  4. Clanmother May 16, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

    I LOVE this post!!! I have been to three of these airports and can attest to their grandeur and welcoming feeling. Architecture reflects our philosophy of homecoming. Thank you so much for this collection.

    • Virginia Duran May 17, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

      You gave me the idea to write about airports! So thank you :)

  5. Naresh Ramadurai May 17, 2013 at 1:53 am #

    wonderful post. I’ve see a few airport that you’ve mentioned above in photographs :) But the architecture of Carrasco International Airport, Zurich Airport, Terminal 4, Barajas Airport in Madrid is mind blowing :) Thanks for sharing such great information…Cheers!

    • Virginia Duran May 17, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

      Thank you Naresh! I didn’t have a chance to visit all of them either, but now that I’ve studied them I think I will at some point! Hope you visit some of them as well!

  6. Mary Gilmartin May 17, 2013 at 10:02 pm #

    Nice collection of airport photographs with all their wonderful architecture.

  7. Stephen Hughes May 22, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

    I’m shocked with the vast exciting, variety of gorgeous Architectural shots!

  8. utesmile June 1, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

    These are amazing, they all look very futuristic to me, like in Science fiction films but htey are real, amazing architecture! Just visiting the airport of those countires is a trip worth while! :-)

    • Virginia Duran June 1, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

      I completely agree with you! And it’s a shame we are always on a rush, because we don’t get to enjoy these buildings as much as we should :)

      • utesmile June 1, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

        True, I have never been to any of those, my most visited one is London Stansted, which is not bad either, I find!

  9. jalal michael sabbagh.http://gravatar.com/jmsabbagh86@gmail.com July 12, 2013 at 2:24 am #

    I been to a few of these airports.Spectacular post.Thank you for visiting my blog.Best wishes.jalal

    • Virginia Duran July 12, 2013 at 8:03 am #

      Hello Jalal, I am glad that you got to see many of these airports in person. Thanks for stopping by,
      Virginia-

  10. psychologistmimi August 30, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    Definitely some stunning airport spaces

    • Virginia Duran August 30, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

      Glad you liked them and thanks for stopping by :)

  11. Cynthia September 5, 2013 at 5:37 am #

    This is a great way for someone to virtually travel, thanks for sharing your experiences of these with us!

    • Virginia Duran September 5, 2013 at 10:20 am #

      That is very true, I haven’t been at some of these airports and yet it feels as I was there at least once. I guess nowadays we can travel from our own computer ;)

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