Gate­way to To­mor­row

From the rise of the aerotropo­lis to holo­graphic staff, the air­ports of the fu­ture will change the way we travel

Business Traveler (USA) - - INSIDE - By Jenny Southan

From the rise of the aerotropo­lis to holo­graphic staff, the air­ports of the fu­ture will change the way we travel

Air travel is en­ter­ing a new era. With China plan­ning to open 78 new air­ports by 2020 and the num­ber of pas­sen­gers trav­el­ing glob­ally set to hit 16 bil­lion a year by 2050 (up from 2.8 bil­lion to­day), the role avi­a­tion hubs play in cities, so­ci­eties and economies will be­come more im­por­tant than ever.

As a con­se­quence, bold and imag­i­na­tive ar­chi­tects are go­ing to be es­sen­tial to make air­ports as ef­fi­cient and at­trac­tive as pos­si­ble. “The days of de­sign­ing air­ports that are func­tional and con­crete are over,” says Pat Askew, se­nior di­rec­tor of avi­a­tion and trans­porta­tion for global ar­chi­tec­tural com­pany Gensler.

While in the past air­ports have gen­er­ally been lo­cated out­side of town, with ter­mi­nals added as re­quired, the eco­nomic am­bi­tions of the BRIC na­tions are giv­ing birth to a new kind of air­port con­cept – the aerotropo­lis. As op­posed to an air­port that has only been ge­o­graph­i­cally em­braced by a city be­cause of creep­ing ur­ban sprawl, an aerotropo­lis is a city that has been de­signed from scratch with an air­port at its heart.

In a Fe­bru­ary 2011 Wall Street Jour­nal ar­ti­cle, Greg Lind­say, co-author with John D Kasarda of Aerotropo­lis: The Way We’ll

Live Next, notes: “The ideal aerotropo­lis is an amal­gam of made-to-or­der of­fice parks, con­ven­tion ho­tels, cargo com­plexes and even fac­to­ries, which in some cases line the run­ways. It is a pure node in a global net­work whose fast-mov­ing pack­ets are peo­ple and goods in­stead of data. And it is the fu­ture of the global city.”

Not all post­mod­ern ur­ban plan­ning may have at its core such an all-en­com­pass­ing vi­sion, but the re­sults may none­the­less cre­ate a sig­nif­i­cant con­cen­tra­tion of a given in­dus­try, at least in part be­cause of its prox­im­ity to the air­port. Take for ex­am­ple, Or­lando’s Med­i­cal City. Only six miles from Or­lando In­ter­na­tional Air­port, the pro­ject is emerg­ing as the city’s fastest­grow­ing mas­ter-planned com­mu­nity. Res­i­dents in­clude Ne­mours Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal, M.D. An­der­son Or­lando’s Can­cer Re­search In­sti­tute, Or­lando VA Med­i­cal Cen­ter, Univer­sity of Florida’s new Col­lege of Medicine and Health Sciences, and Burn­ham In­sti­tute for Med­i­cal Re­search’s East Coast cam­pus. All of this is spawn­ing some sig­nif­i­cant biotechs.

How­ever, the con­cept of the aerotropo­lis, which sees whole cities de­vel­oped al­most overnight with land­ing strips and air traf­fic con­trol tow­ers at the cen­ter, is prov­ing pop­u­lar in the Mid­dle East and Asia, where pop­u­la­tions are boom­ing and vi­sion­ary gov­ern­ments have the power to quickly turn blue­prints into re­al­ity.

In the time the UK has been de­lib­er­at­ing over a third run­way at Heathrow, the aerotropo­lis of Songdo in South Korea, con­nected to In­cheon air­port by a 7-anda-half mile bridge, has risen from 250 acres of re­claimed land to a gleam­ing con­flu­ence of of­fice tow­ers, with the aim of con­nect­ing more than one-third of the world’s

pop­u­la­tion that live within 3.5 hours flight time to the metropolis.

The Spirit of the Place

When it comes to re­vamp­ing or build­ing new air­ports, us­ing de­sign to evoke a sense of place is an­other emerg­ing trend. “Pas­sen­gers are look­ing for a lo­cal ex­pe­ri­ence, ”says Ray­mond Kol­lau, founder of air­line­trends.com. “When peo­ple trans­fer at [Am­s­ter­dam] Schiphol they will be there for two or three hours so they are of­fered a touch of the Nether­lands – there is a branch of the Ri­jksmu­seum, the Hol­land Boule­vard, where you can have Dutch food, and an air­port li­brary where you can read trans­la­tions of Dutch au­thors.”

It’s not only hap­pen­ing in Europe. Tokyo Haneda’s new in­ter­na­tional ter­mi­nal has opened an Edo-style mar­ket with pa­per lan­terns and mock his­toric shops sell­ing tra­di­tional food and hand­i­crafts, while Den­ver air­port has ap­plied the con­cept to the over­all look of its build­ing, with a tent­like roof shaped as a se­ries of white peaks as a nod to nearby snow-capped Rock­ies.

“As in­ter­na­tional gate­ways, air­ports should re­flect the spirit of the place they rep­re­sent, ”says Mouzhan Ma­jidi, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Foster and Part­ners, which has de­signed air­ports such as Bei­jing

Se­cu­rity will be­come more akin to some­thing from To­tal Re­call

In­ter­na­tional and Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok. “Bei­jing In­ter­na­tional is a build­ing born of its con­text. This is ex­pressed in its dragon-like form and the tra­di­tional Chi­nese col­ors of the roof, as reds merge into golden yel­lows. Kuwait air­port is sim­i­larly in­spired by ver­nac­u­lar ar­chi­tec­ture – its de­sign is re­spon­sive to one of the hottest in­hab­ited en­vi­ron­ments on earth.”

Askew from Gensler, which con­cep­tu­al­ized San Fran­cisco’s new Ter­mi­nal 2 and JFK’s Jet Blue T5, agrees: “There is com­pe­ti­tion on where to fly and where to trans­fer – it’s civic pride. There is a de­sire to make things look dif­fer­ent, be more wel­com­ing and more in­dica­tive of the place in which it sits. One of the nicest projects Gensler did was Jack­son Hole, WY, in a national park – the air­port looks like a lodge, but in a very con­tem­po­rary way. It has lots of wood and a fire­place in the de­par­ture lounge. It’s easy to make a Dis­ney­land theme park-style struc­ture, but not easy to make some­thing func­tional that also looks like it re­ally be­longs in its lo­cale.”

Tech Shifts

While the aes­thet­ics of an air­port help to im­prove the ex­pe­ri­ence of trav­el­ers, tech­nol­ogy will con­tinue to em­power them. On­line check-in may be old news, but the im­pact it will have on the de­sign of new air­ports is sig­nif­i­cant. Askew says ter­mi­nals that were built a long time ago were de­signed ac­cord­ing to very dif­fer­ent cri­te­ria. “The change has been so rapid, the need for large ar­eas for check-in has com­pletely changed, ”he says.“We are

faced with a lot of big, empty halls that are unused, and very crowded air­side ar­eas.”

Paul Be­han, head of pas­sen­ger ex­pe­ri­ence for trade body IATA, agrees: “If you look at Heathrow T5 com­pared with T4 ten years ago, in T4 there would have been about 150 desks and long queues lead­ing to them, whereas T5 is de­signed on a wave con­cept – wave one for check-in at 95 self-ser­vice kiosks, wave two for those who have checked in on­line and need to drop a bag off, and wave three for check-in with an agent. It’s fil­ter­ing out those peo­ple who need help from those who don’t.”

At­lanta is an­other ex­am­ple of the de­sign trans­for­ma­tions wrought by the swiftly chang­ing de­mands of both tech­nol­ogy and se­cu­rity. Harts­field-Jack­son has a vast lin­ear air­side that was built in a dif­fer­ent era of air­port lay­outs. Only with the open­ing of the new $1.4 bil­lion Maynard H. Jack­son, Jr. In­ter­na­tional Ter­mi­nal were the quirks and choke­points of ATL’s in-line de­sign – that put in­ter­na­tional pas­sen­gers, and their bags, at the end of the queue – suc­cess­fully ad­dressed.

The smart­phone is cru­cial to the tech­no­log­i­cal changes tak­ing place. Now you can down­load your board­ing pass, change your seat, check your flight sta­tus, pay for up­grades and re­book flights all on your per­sonal de­vice. The growth in au­to­mated ser­vices at air­ports goes hand in hand with this, as bio­met­ric pass­port gates re­place staffed im­mi­gra­tion desks and air­lines fol­low Lufthansa’s ex­am­ple of hav­ing self-board­ing gates.

Se­cu­rity will also be­come more akin to some­thing from To­tal Re­call with the in­stal­la­tion of IATA’s Check­point of the Fu­ture, which al­lows pas­sen­gers to walk through a cor­ri­dor of scan­ners with their carry-on bags, and with­out tak­ing out liq­uids or elec­tri­cal items.

In Oc­to­ber, Den­mark’s Bil­lund air­port worked with Thomas Cook to en­able trav­el­ers to print their own lug­gage tags. In the US, Delta Air Lines scans ev­ery case that goes on to do­mes­tic flights, so that with its app, pas­sen­gers will know if theirs is. Sin­ga­pore Changi has part­nered with IT firm SITA to pro­vide end-to-end track­ing, man­age­ment and trac­ing of checked bags. That Changi is em­brac­ing such tech­nol­ogy is in­dica­tive of its ded­i­ca­tion to of­fer­ing the best air­port ex­pe­ri­ence pos­si­ble – Busi­ness Trav­eler read­ers voted it Best Air­port in the World in 2012, the lat­est of many such ac­co­lades in the cat­e­gory.

“Thanks to in-flight WiFi, you can also start sort­ing out any lug­gage prob­lem in the air us­ing so­cial me­dia tools, ”Kol­lau says.“There is a new and ad­ven­tur­ous in­ter­play of things hap­pen­ing in the air and on the ground.”

And the fu­ture tech­nol­ogy is about to get even edgier with the roll-out of 2D holo­graphic vir­tual staffers who pro­vide real-time in­struc­tions at se­cu­rity check­points and board­ing gates – the tech­nol­ogy has al­ready been tested at Paris

Be pre­pared to find holo­graphic staff at se­cu­rity gates

Orly, Manch­ester, Lu­ton and Birm­ing­ham. There are aug­mented re­al­ity apps that trans­late signs into your na­tive lan­guage when you hold your phone up to them.

The de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion of lux­u­ries for­merly as­so­ci­ated with club lounges is also go­ing to be more com­mon in the air­port of to­mor­row, with the likes of show­ers, free WiFi, power points, com­fort­able seat­ing and even snooze zones in­tro­duced in pub­lic spa­ces. The ar­rival of Yo­tel cap­sule ho­tels at Heathrow, Gatwick and Schiphol was the first good ex­am­ple of a hote­lier cap­i­tal­iz­ing on the power nap, and Dal­las/ Fort Worth In­ter­na­tional has just opened its first Minute Suites, an around-the-clock nap cen­ter where pas­sen­gers can re­lax and sleep in a pri­vate suite avail­able by the hour. Rates start at $34.00 for a one-hour min­i­mum.

With all th­ese in­no­va­tions, the air­port of the fu­ture is go­ing to be a des­ti­na­tion in it­self. Shop­ping will con­tinue to be a vi­tal source of rev­enue, but as Askew notes, “there is only so much money a pas­sen­ger will spend be­fore they get on a plane.” So in ad­di­tion, the em­pha­sis will be on keep­ing them re­laxed and en­ter­tained, some­thing the 50-mil­lion ca­pac­ity Changi is an ex­pert in.

“Sin­ga­pore is fan­tas­tic, ”says Karin Lui, pre­mium con­tent di­rec­tor of trend­watch­ing.com. “It has so many fa­cil­i­ties, food courts, gar­dens, cin­ema com­plexes and things for kids. Even when you are queu­ing for im­mi­gra­tion they have pretty lit­tle wa­ter­falls. ”(That’s not even men­tion­ing the rooftop pool and but­ter­fly sanc­tu­ary.) The only prob­lem is that if ev­ery air­port be­comes like this, no one will ever want to board their flight. BT

Above: Den­ver In­ter­na­tional South Ter­mi­nal

Clock­wise from above: San Fran­cisco Ter­mi­nal 2; In­cheon Ter­mi­nal 2 trans­fer lounge; Sin­ga­pore Changi Ter­mi­nal 1, Den­ver South Ter­mi­nal

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