The present piece is part of a cycle on building typologies and functions. It gathers some free thoughts and aims to structure a catalogue of inspirational and abstract qualities to enrich and support the design process.
The following concerns airports and the curious paradoxes and opposites this building type exhibits.
The terms we usually use to describe the interior space of an airport ( since for passengers airports are mainly restricted to an interior ) are busy, time-consuming, full of restrictions and security measures. Airports are related to travel, speed and transition, people of all possible backgrounds walk as equal through it and it is a place for a temporary stay.
Nevertheless, when examining the activities and the personal user experience, different qualities emerge. Despite its main function of travel, the prime activity for passengers is to wait. Even the event of flying itself ( transitioning at a very fast speed) is perceived as stationary since it only involves sitting. Having all that time, dedicated to waiting leads to the emerging of a bubble of time, similar to the bubble of space an airport is, that is free of any other label and responsibility. A time and a space, which is designed to facilitate no special function and gives freedom for insertion of any other function as desired.
Freedom in itself is also a seemingly foreign concept to airports. Due to the extraordinary security measures, compared to any other public building, the experience seems to be rather restricting than enabling or liberating. Arguably however, it is in that moment when a passenger finds himself with minimum luggage, therefore minimum possessions, that the freedom of the next hour or two becomes clear. Through the removal of everyday appliances, the user is exposed to the possibility of a different experience.
An airport is a space of noise. Despite its desperate attempts to inform, the signals it gives remain voiceless in the field of its diverse but temporary context. Its visitors are probably the widest range of ethnic, cultural, national and age background and yet they all walk incognito, carefully not to leave a trace. This temporary shelter gladly accepts and encourages that behaviour.
An airport creates a blurry condition, a state between an origin and a destination, between safety and exposure, between restrictions and lack of definition. It’s a great wide space, filled with tiny personal experiences. Rarely a building can intertwine so curiously the paradox of speed and static, noise and silence, diversity and anonymity.
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