• 09.08.11

A Proposal For Radically Redesigning Airport Terminals

A project re-examines the architecture that connects one city to another, but belongs nowhere.

A Proposal For Radically Redesigning Airport Terminals

Airports are bizarre places. But if you think about it, they’re not nearly bizarre enough. Especially as we move towards a more globalized culture, we appreciate less and less of the extreme differences, both geographic and cultural, that flying from A to B can provide. We walk out of one rickety airport ramp and arrive in another rickety airport ramp that looks almost exactly the same. Miku Dixit, a recent architecture grad at Princeton, hopes to add new drama and context to the places we visit when we’re in-transit through a series of proposals in his masters thesis “Extraterrioriality.”


The increase in the number of worldwide travelers, as large populations in India and China move towards the middle class, caused Dixit to look at flight as a different kind of experience, not the duty-free-shopping-with-a-Burger King experience we have now. “This thesis proposes a redefinition of the gate and concourse to one that embraces the strangeness, perversity and sublimity inherent to these spaces as the primary driver of an architectural response,” writes Dixit in his statement. Unlike, say, a border crossing, where you know exactly where you pass between one country and another, the borders between airports are much more tenuous. The “property lines,” Dixit argues, exist at an architectural scale–the jetways, the platforms, the terminals that have zero bearing on your location. They look the same pretty much everywhere you go, and they don’t have any real sense of departure or arrival.

[Each node is an airport. This diagram represents all the airports in the world.]

Using the unique “topological and architectural potential” of an airport border crossing, Dixit rethinks the thresholds between “local and the global, land and air, architecture and machine.” Dixit’s proposal asks for contextually specific appendages to existing airport terminals that beautifully prepare us for the fact that we’re about to experience flight–no more of those dinky and uninventive ramps that we usually trudge along from the terminal to the plane. Plus, all of these proposals would save airports time and space, as Dixit has also considered the flow of air traffic pulling in and out of the gates.

Using the real-life layouts of three airports–Chicago (city of the 20th century), Beijing (city of the 21st century), and a layover in Frankfurt–Dixit’s architectural proposals transform the passenger’s relationship to the plane itself. In Chicago, an entirely new terminal allows the planes to navigate a series of cutouts in the building and dock directly adjacent to the terminal, more like a train pulling into a station. In Frankfurt, planes pull into the terminal head-in, eliminating the jetway and allowing a greater connection to the size and form of the plane. And in Beijing, where a new airport offers plenty of space to play, Dixit proposes a fanciful hangar-like space where people can walk the length of the plane before boarding.

It’s interesting to see attention paid to these in-between spaces since the current overly beige, overly cramped, overly plastic environments just seem to amplify the fact that we’re stressed, cranky, tired, and late. Perhaps some kind of contextual introduction to the fact that we’re climbing into a massive feat of engineering will make us a bit more excited, or maybe awed, about the journey before us. And maybe even bring some glamour back to the experience of flight.

[Top image via Miku Dixit]

About the author

Alissa is a design writer for publications like Fast Company, GOOD and Dwell who can most often be found in Los Angeles. She likes to walk, ride the bus, and eat gelato.