Is This the Airport of the Future?
For years, travelers have endured tarmac gridlock at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, tantalizingly close to Manhattan – just eight miles away -- but frustratingly overrun, handling 25.7 million passengers in 2012. So when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the state of New York airports “lamentable” recently, frequent fliers shrugged, and said, “Whaddyagonnadoabowdit?”
While the governor vowed, in his 2014 agenda, to oversee improvements to LaGuardia and sibling Kennedy, we at Suitcase Entrepreneur wondered, how good can it get?
The answer is: much, much better. Consider Singapore’s Changi Airport, which features a rooftop pool and butterfly garden. Hong Kong International Airport has an IMAX theater and golf course. In Switzerland, Zurich Airport offers an observation deck and in-line skates and bikes for rent.
Architects, designers and one historian weighed in to project the airport of the future, summarized in these six traits:
Islands unto themselves
The current debate about expanding London’s Heathrow Airport has produced plans that include constructing a new one in the Thames estuary. Grimshaw Architects, a global practice with aviation credits including expansions at Heathrow and Zurich, produced a fantasy design for LaGuardia that features a manmade island airport surrounded by water with runways approachable from four directions.
Wellness by design
Late January, Gensler unveiled SFO’s renovated Terminal 3 including a yoga room, skylights and artificial circadian lighting that fluxes with the time of day – more blue light in the daytime, more red at night – to underscore natural sleep rhythms.
As natural as possible
As natural as possible. Singapore and Zurich point the way ahead: more outdoor space. Grimshaw’s fantasy island airport rings a large outdoor park. Gensler’s design for a new terminal under construction at Korea’s Incheon International Airport features two major indoor gardens illuminated by skylights with waterfalls and koi ponds, features that, according to Keith Thompson, another Gensler principal, “all help bring a sense of peace and calm to the travel experience.”
Integrate the airport with the city
Integrate the airport with the city. Andrew Whalley, deputy chairman at Grimshaw, doesn’t talk about hub airports, but “hub cities” that link airports to city centers via high-speed rail. In New York, Grimshaw produced a plan for the Forum for Urban Design featuring fast subterranean rail links between Manhattan and New York’s two airports as well as Newark that are separate from existing rail lines. “Investing in a really good rail system benefits everyone who lives in the city and uses it every day,” he said. And for travelers, “Instead of an airport shop, you’d have Fifth Avenue.”