Thursday, October 7, 2010


Venice Marco Polo Airport, VCE

While doing my Travel Thursday posts, I couldn't help but look at the places, namely airports, that get us to these destinations! Airports are such weird places. I personally like them, most of the time, because I know I will be going somewhere fun and foreign when I am at an airport. I like to look at the architecture and the offering of shops and restaurants, especially the duty free shops. Also, the shops in airports are the last places where I can buy a souvenir that is overpriced but quality-insured (at least that's what I like to think).

Los Angeles International Airport, LAX

But for some people, and myself at times, airports are stressful, nerve-wrecking, and depressing places. Having to take out your liquids and laptop, take off your shoes and belt, empty your pocket of coins and cellphone, place your carry-on luggage and your personal item through the xray, and to hold on to your ID and boarding pass to show to security (without losing either of them) all at once in like three short minute is A LOT to do. Then to find out that the body scanner still went off when you walked through barefoot without a belt AND with all your precious belongings already passed the xray and are now far down that rolly counter where anyone can just grab your items make me extremely anxious and nervous. Good thing that has not happened to me, and I will continue to make sure that that body scan doesn't beep when I pass because that is one of my worst nightmares. (Oh and let's not even mention having to do ALL that while running late.)

Samui Airport, USM

Anyways, all of this leads me to ask the question why are no two airports alike? Wouldn't our familiarity with the layout of an airport, expectation of the number of passengers, and very important knowledge of how far one terminal is from another calm our nerves? So why are no two airports alike? As a very loyal Target customer, I know where all the different sections are no matter which Target I go to--same as the Ikeas. If the sections have changed, at least there's a very clear path to take.

John F. Kennedy International Airport, JFK

But isn't there a perfect airport design that every other airport should base itself on to optimize efficiency, ease of use, comfort, and your overall experience? Is Dallas-Fort Worth's Skylink more efficient than O'Hare's what-seems-like-a-mile-long moving walkway with neon lights? (I must say the skeleton replica of the Brachiosaurus is a pretty cool reward at the end of the tunnel.) What about Dulles' strange and futuristic Mobile Lounges? Is that more efficient than the good old buses used at PHL? And what about the Disneyland-like trams used at Samui Airport in Thailand? Or maybe we like to walk everywhere like at Newark.

Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, HEL

Now, what about the design? Can a famous architect make an airport "better"? Kansai International which serves Osaka is designed by Renzo Piano. London Heathrow Terminal 5 by Richard Rogers. The defunct TWA Flight Center by Eero Saarinen, who also designed Dulles, and the vacated Terminal 6 by I.M. Pei--both at JFK. Denver International with its highly praised canvas, snow-capped shaped roof is by Curtis Fentress is also the mastermind behind, what is consistently rated as one of the world's best airports, Incheon International. Note--these airports are all international.

London Heathrow Airport, LHR

Maybe domestic terminals and some international airports don't need the big names yet can still be nice and function just as well. Taiwan Taoyuan International's Terminal 1, which is reminiscent of Dulles, is traditional and beautiful. George Bush Intercontinental, Philly, and Gatwick (except for the monumental bridge) are nondescript but functional. Tompkins County Airport might one of the most stripped down airports I know, but, hey, you can go to the front of the security line if you are running late. Forget the architecture at McCarran International, which serves Las Vegas, as you are greeted with slot machines upon arrival. But then there are domestic terminals like the ones at LAX, Pittsburgh International, Phoenix Sky Harbor, and LaGuardia that are dark and extremely sad.

Denver International Airport, DEN

One thing I can make my mind up about is that airports are, although maybe not 100% of the time, representations of the city that it is in or even its country. Honolulu International with its open air design and densely-planted grounds welcomes you to paradise. Copenhagen Airport with its laminated hardwood floor, minimalist design, and cleanliness represents a country that is proud of its culture and heritage yet values the latest in technology, functionality, and its vulnerable but still pristine environment. The Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX has some had-been modern features left from the 80's and 90's but are lackluster today--much like downtown LA which suffers from complacency and a lack of development and advancement. (Sorry, I'm a very harsh critic of Southern California. I am excited, however, for the modernization of LAX which has Curtis Fentress on board.) Lastly, to the airport that serves one of my favorite cities, Heathrow Terminal 5 with Richard Rogers' signature Bowellism style is a monument that celebrates London's modernity despite its 2000 years of history and, obviously, a display of the ingenuity of one of Britain's greatest modern architects.

Chicago O'Hare International Airport, ORD

Thoughts? What's your favorite airport? Which one do you dislike the most?

1 comment:

amy said...

John Wayne!
wow... i've been to half of the airports you mentioned...