Air travel is anything but “cushy.” Increased security procedures, bag checks, confined spaces, and increasing delays weigh heavily on travelers. It’s up to designers to factor in these travel challenges in order to successfully create a winning airport design, one that adheres to strict regulations while also alleviating stress for terminal staff and airline passengers. As such,
Contract asked Bill Hooper, principal of Gensler and aviation and transportation practice area leader, to share his top five challenges in airport design.
1. Save time.
With new technology and third generation e-ticket kiosks on the rise, why require passengers to stand in line? Advanced technology now allows travelers to check-in at home, at a hotel, or by using a mobile device en route to the airport. It’s important to design easily navigable terminals that provide arriving passengers quick and hassle-free access to security.
2. Ditch the bags.
Curbside check-in is the first opportunity for today’s passengers to enter their bags into the scanning process. But in the near future, travelers will get bag tags embedded with a microchip, enabling them to check their bags as soon as they park in a remote lot or even at hotels and train stations. Remote checking will give the airport more time to process the bags and frees travelers from dragging them through security. Design will need to adapt to accommodate this.
3. Pat-down problems.
Passengers clear security at a different speed than their purses and briefcases, yet people want (human nature) to watch their personal effects as they move through the screening process. So how can the design for a terminal security checkpoint help travelers more rapidly reunite with their stuff? By designing comfortable places for people to recompose themselves, put their belongings back in their bags, and put their shoes back on. Keep in mind that “re-vesting,” as airports call it, actually is more important (and requires more space) than the area dedicated to talking it all off.
The human body gives off significant amounts of heat and humidity. Regardless of an airport’s geographic location, every terminal is air conditioned, not heated, during peak times. So the question for designers becomes: how can you create a highly variable cooling system when under- or over-cooling the space is a real risk? Watch for an increased use of fans in terminals, as the simplest solution is often the most effective.
5. Flipped priorities.
The last thing today’s travelers want to do is hang out in a ticketing hall. (We’re more interested in speeding our way through security checkpoints.) So why do we put ticketing halls in the parts of the terminal with the best light, highest ceilings, and most grandly designed spaces? It’s a tradition left over from the era of train travel that we just haven’t moved past. Conversely, there’s no circumventing the need to wait for baggage to arrive at the bag claim. Why go to the lowest area of the terminal to collect your bag, when you should simply arrive, walk straight ahead, and enjoy a well-lit, well-designed space? It’s time to flip the standard layout of terminals and design them to the realities of air travel today.
To see some of these concepts at work, view images of the Gensler-designed JetBlue Terminal 5 at JFK (© Nic Lehoux, courtesy of Gensler) in the image gallery by clicking the “more photos” link above.
For more on air-related travel design, read “Up in the Air: Lufthansa A380 Flagship, by Priestmangoode,” which is also part of Cotnract’s January 2011 focus on transportation interior design projects.