written by:
May 13, 2009
Originally published in Think Smaller

As anyone who has been to Peru, 
or Bali, or Timbuktu can tell you, travel is not merely the experience of going
 somewhere. Travel design must convey a complex message: of place, of pleasure, of international exchange.

Carrasco International, Montevideo
Carrasco International, Montevideo
1 / 5
TWA Terminal, JFK Airport, New York CIty
TWA Terminal, JFK Airport, New York CIty
2 / 5
Barajas Airport, Madrid
Barajas Airport, Madrid
Courtesy of 
Richard Bryant/Arcaid.co.uk
3 / 5
Terminal Three Beijing Airport
Terminal 3, Beijing
Courtesy of 
Michael Weber
Originally appeared in 101 Airports
4 / 5
Incheon International, Seoul
Incheon International, Seoul
Courtesy of 
Marc Gerritsen
5 / 5
Carrasco International, Montevideo
Carrasco International, Montevideo

Suitcases, boarding gates, and airport concourses are all designed to serve 
a necessary purpose while saying something positive about travelers and the places they visit.

Terminals are the Taj Mahals of travel design. The best are gateways to 
optimistic futures. Like a cathedral, the terminal’s colossal concourse inspires 
a feeling of exaltation before sending
you on your way. It is a locus of constant motion, and yet the traveler 
is encouraged to pause for a plate of 
raw oysters or a relaxing cocktail, 
or to sit on a comfortable bench and gape at the terminal’s celestial ceiling, upon which the cosmos have been painted. The traveler needn’t take 
notice of the building’s true genius: 
its immensely intricate network of invisible thoroughfares and jetways spanning the distance from waiting gates to take-off.

At the dawn of the jet age, in the late 1950s, airports began to assume 
a majestic scale, as if to affirm their new position as the world’s primary gateways. Building an airport was—–
and still is—–an act of optimism and modernity, and mid-century designs reflected that. The symbolism of flight and movement as metaphors for 
human progress became almost as 
important as the logistical concern 
for getting greater numbers of people on and off planes.

TWA Terminal, JFK Airport, New York CIty
TWA Terminal, JFK Airport, New York CIty

Eero Saarinen’s luxurious TWA terminal at JFK Airport in New York City perfectly embodies mid-century dynamism. Its graceful roof reaches outward like the stretched wings 
of a gliding bird. Inside, its sweeping, curved lines, shafts of light, and free-flowing spaces are all carefully designed not just to suggest fluid movement but to churn foot traffic 
in and out.

Incheon International, Seoul
Incheon International, Seoul

The rapid acceleration of global exchange in the 1990s inspired a new generation of airports, many in Asia, 
to welcome and dazzle world travelers. Bold futuristic styles exploit extravagant building shapes made possible by advances in engineering. Near Seoul, Korea, Incheon International’s main passenger terminal is an amorphous beauty resembling a metallic jellyfish from outer space. Beijing’s striking new Terminal 3 projects a similar intergalactic confidence, at least when viewed from the air at night. The forthcoming terminal at Carrasco International in Montevideo, Uruguay, is a sleekly stylized update of the old flying saucer concept. All of these airports beg to be taken as messages from the future, reflecting upon the desires and intentions of the people who built them and shaping the impressions of the millions who pass through.

Barajas Airport, Madrid
Barajas Airport, Madrid

A more welcoming approach can be found in Richard Rogers’s exuberant interiors for the new Terminal 4 at Madrid’s Barajas Airport. The terminal is structurally familiar, but it is executed with a refreshing warmth and flair. There is nothing revolutionary in the terminal’s effective use of wood or in its vibrant, Almodóvaresque color scheme, but in the context of an airport it feels decidedly new. Here, the intent is to ease the transition from the air 
to the actual place.

There will never be a final word on airport design, as airports are in a constant state of flux. New terminals are built in response to new complications, such as increased traffic and heightened security. Old terminals, no matter how beautiful, are continually modified. “To design a terminal, you have 
to think ahead,” says Ripley Rasmus, 
a design principal for HOK, who is currently involved in the new Indianapolis airport, the first new airport to be 
built in the United States since Septem-
ber 11, 2001. “But on a certain level, 
all airports are construction zones.”

Terminal Three Beijing Airport
Terminal 3, Beijing

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

45 dva 2270 persp1 cmyk 0
The prospect of retirement doesn’t just signal the end of a career; it offers the chance to recalibrate and re-prioritize in life.
July 25, 2016
18
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016