Back in 1962, architect Eero Saarinen designed his vision of the future of air travel. The result was the gorgeously organic terminal for TWA at New York’s JFK airport. While the airline is gone, the terminal building survived and recently reopened as a mid-century modern fetishist’s dream hotel lobby, paying homage to the golden age of flight. Saarinen’s vision of air travel may be considered retro now, but at the time it was a vision of the future.
Now a new wave of architects is stepping up to the challenge of figuring out what’s next. Specifically, what airports will look like in the year 2075.
For the 2019 Fentress Global Challenge, Fentress Architects tasked aspiring architects with envisioning the airport of the future. Over 500 designers from more than 50 countries took up the challenge. The results are a glimpse of innovations to come, with the students coming up with creative methods to improve nearly every aspect of the airport-terminal experience and delving deeply into the future of aviation. The creative minds came up with design solutions on topics like mobility, urbanization, globalization, technology, flexibility, security, project feasibility, and passenger experience.
Out of the hundreds of entries, the jury, made up of design and aviation experts, chose three winning proposals that show bold conceptual thinking, acute sensitivity to context, and skilled design. The first-place prize, and $10,000, went to Daoru Wang, from North Carolina State University, for a high-concept “drive-through airport” that is efficient and sleek and was created after an “intensive study of aircraft traffic flow,” according to a press release. The so-called Infinity Airport looks like two overlapping infinity symbols that streamline the loading-unloading process and give you something to think about while waiting for a delayed flight.
Second place went to Samantha Pires, of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, for her reimagining of Newark Airport inspired in part by the aerotropolis, a conceptual urban design that puts the airport at the center of the metropolis as envisioned by John Kasarda, who wrote a book on the subject. According to Pires, “The Airport of the Future is one that brings economic development to the community that it serves. It proposes that the Airport of the Future should not be governed by fear and ‘security theater’ that runs modern airports, but that it should be a place for community engagement, job opportunities and a catalyst for neighborhood development and benefit.” And anything that improves Newark, right?
In third place was Christopher Johnson, University for the Creative Arts in Farnham, U.K., who reimagined Heathrow with a “drive-through concept that sits below the airport terminal and allows aircraft traffic and waiting times to be reduced.”