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UNStudio Builds An Iconic Airport That’s A Symbol Of Global Aspirations

Georgia’s moving its government seat from Tbilisi to Kutaisi, prompting the need for a hub in the nation’s second city.

UNStudio Builds An Iconic Airport That’s A Symbol Of Global Aspirations

It’s no secret that cutting-edge architecture has found a place in China, Japan, and even here in the United States. But what about Georgia? Recent evidence shows that the nation in the Caucasus is becoming a patron of standout (and in some cases, outlandish) design. Last month, it unveiled a border crossing by the eccentric Berlin-based studio Jürgen Mayer H.–a giant concrete squiggle of a building–and now the country has announced a design for a new airport in Kutaisi by the Dutch firm UNStudio: a futuristic pavilion complemented by a spindly air-traffic-control tower.

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Georgia is set to move its parliament from the capital of Tbilisi to Kutaisi next year, which will increase traffic to the second city. The new airport, slated to open in September 2012, will become a secondary hub for international diplomats, national polticians, and tourists. “The design for the new terminal in Kutaisi focuses first and foremost on the experience of the traveler by creating an inviting, safe, transparent, and user-friendly airport,” says UNStudio principal Ben van Berkel, according to the firm’s press release. “The desire to provide for and communicate equally with both international visitors and the local community is paramount.”

As such, the terminal is a transparent, 4,300-square-foot gateway that will serve as the “lobby to Georgia,” organized around a central exterior space for departing passengers. The layout is designed to ensure that the flows of departing and arriving passengers do not coincide, while providing site lines to the surrounding Caucasus landscape and the airport’s apron. The expansive interior could be used to showcase the work of Georgian artists.

The torqued air-traffic-control tower will be 180 feet high and house the control cabin at the top. The transparent skin, according to UNStudio, will have the potential to change color as traffic fluctuates.

The design sports some unusual green features, especially for an emissions-spewing airport. An underground source of natural water will help regulate the terminal’s temperature, and gray water will be collected under the volume’s floor. Kutaisi is expected be the first Georgian airport to strictly regulate waste, in the hopes of establishing a nationwide recycling system for both new and existing projects.

But don’t be naive in thinking that Georgia selected the Amsterdam-based UNStudio on the basis of its architectural credentials alone; economic and political strategy played a role, too: During the design’s official reveal, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili announced, “I’m hoping that the airport will be a landmark for Dutch investment, too, the Netherlands being one of the biggest investors in the country.” Real subtle, Mr. President.

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About the author

A former editor at such publications as WIRED, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Fast Company, Belinda Lanks has also written for The New York Times Magazine, The New York Observer, Interior Design, and ARTnews.

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