Coolest airports in the world

By Sergio González | 11:11

Retro airport design at LAX

Flying has been a long wished dream for mankind and airports are the first impression we usually have of a new destination. They are the modern gates of a city, the screen we’ll be judging at first sight.

Modern airports are a profusion of magnificent architecture intended, not only to be efficient, but also colossal and able to call our attention: Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok was the most Instagrammed place in 2012, LAX was the fifth.

Los Angeles International airport may not be the most modern airport design in the USA but the ‘Theme Building’ -the white flying saucer that looks to have landed on its four legs- it’s the most iconic landmark of an American airport. Designed by Paul Williams in 1961, it’s one of the greatest examples of Googie architecture, a stream born in California in the 40’s around car culture, jets and Space Age. Hardly accepted by mainstream architecture, it was abandoned in the 70’s as these googie buildings attracted too much attention in a moment when architecture was shifting to constructions that will merge with their environment.

LAX has been depicted in many movies and TV shows -from The Graduate or The Bodyguard to Lost- and it’s a kind of fetish for directors like Quentin Tarantino (‘Jackie Brown’ and ‘Kill Bill vol.1’) you don’t want to miss the picture in your visit to California.

Bilbao Sondika Airport should be on the list as the boldest airport architecture design, by Santiago Calatrava. As it is customary in this architect, his inspiration came straight from bone design and natural anatomical motion. Bilbao airport is a dove just about to break flying.

Despite the huge admiration for its design, it looks outstandingly beautiful over Bilbao green hills, Sondika has been often criticised by arriving passengers who find themselves waiting outside (FYI, in Bilbao it rains 300 days a year). However, those waiting for their beloved ones have a dramatic view of them from a glass-walled gallery, increasing the scanning and waving excitement.

Relaxing airport architecture in Madrid Barajas

Spain’s main air gate is Madrid Barajas Airport, terminal 4. The bamboo ceiling and organic structure by architects Lamela and R. Rogers have been awarded several times for the wise fluidity of light through the building. With this new terminal building, Barajas became one of the busiest airports in the world (4th in Europe and 10th worldwide) and way less stressful. The place reminds of an Asian temple at some points and it seems to have the effect of relaxing passengers and airport staff.

Skyrax, an aviation consultant, conducts the most important survey about airports users’ satisfaction. In 2013, 12 million people were asked about cleanliness, security, shopping opportunities or dinning variety and quality (among other 39 categories) in almost 400 airports.

Singapore Changi Airport has won the prize for Best Airport in 2013. Like many other airport designs in this region, Changi’s terminals are built in glass and steel, allowing tons of light into the buildings, and usually over or next to the sea, as Asian cities are enormously populated and space is truly scarce.

However, Terminal 3 in Changi airport not only merges the building with the sun but also with the overwhelming richness of Javanese jungle. All around the terminal we find palm gardens and relaxing spots that can almost make us forget we are in an airport serving more than 42 million passengers.

This terminal carries the tropical fantasy through and it evens boasts a waterfall in the famous Green Wall, a huge structure with hanging creepers that helps regulate the temperature of the building. They deserve another prize for green and wise airport architectural design.

Photo credit: brewbooks

Photo credit: Marc P


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