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Why do all airports tend to look the same? Read what an architect has to say.

23.1.2017 at 07:00
Have you gotten that 'I’ve-been-here-before' feeling at an airport you’ve only just arrived at? We asked an architect, one who knows Helsinki Airport better than anyone else, why that is often the case.

Regardless of their location, airports around the world tend to be designed in a distinctly similar way. We spoke to Tuomas Silvennoinen, the chief architect responsible for the design of Helsinki Airport’s new terminal expansion, and asked him for his thoughts on international airport design.

Why do most airports around the world look very much alike?

“The main reason probably has to do with the processes that regulate and dictate the aviation industry. These regulations often emphasis security measures.

Another reason would be the international nature of airports, which inherently results in the commercial
services being very similar in each location. Passengers will invariably associate both of these features with airports.

However, if we dig a bit deeper into the details of older terminals and compare them to ones that are being built now, the assumption that terminals are built with a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't stand. Some contemporary terminals are being built specifically with the purpose of standing out of the mass. Examples of such developments can be seen across various airports, such as Beijing, Singapore, Shenzhen, Mexico City and Berlin Brandenburg. The new terminal 4 being built at Madrid Airport is also a prime example.”

What about railway stations? Why are they not built according to a similar philosophy?

“Historically railway stations have been around for much longer than airports. Airport architecture and
development has progressed significantly over the past decade, whereas most major European railway stations have already been built in the 19th century.

Railway stations tend to be built in urban centers, around which cities have then developed. The central location of these stations means that their design has been somewhat imposed by what has been around them at the time. This obviously hasn’t happened with airports that have been built outside of urban areas.”

What essential aspects must be taken into consideration when designing airports?

“The core things have to do with abiding by the regulations set by the aviation industry. Along with this, a lot of attention is also being paid to the entirety of the passenger experience. This has to do with the growth of air travel and the increasing competition between airports.”

Read more about how Tuomas Silvennoinen approaches airport design

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