According to James Berry, director and global aviation and transport sector leader at architecture firm Woods Bagot, the last 5-10 years have seen a noticeable shift in the way that the landside interchange of airport terminals are being designed.
In his white paper titled ‘Reinventing the airport landside interchange’, Berry examines how the various changes in technology and security regimes, as well as the drives for new revenue streams, improved passenger experience and the need to increase ground access capacity are influencing this trend.
“One of the hottest topics being discussed around the world is the issue of the landside areas of terminals, the point of interchange between cars, taxis, trains and the airport,” says Berry.
“London Heathrow was one of the first airports to establish a 98ft standoff from the car parks to the terminal building with Terminal 5 (T5) and it gave BAA something it had not had before – a 98ft wide, 1,640ft long space outside the terminal. The project team began to build the notion of this becoming the key interchange zone.”
The space between the car park and the front of the building improved security and was landscaped with trees, seats and water features. This was re-interpreted at Heathrow Terminal 3 (T3) with the creation of a majestic canopy to protect passengers from the elements. This new approach resulted in a more relaxed and picturesque interchange area for passengers.
This idea has been picked up by airports around the world that are not subject to the same security regulations, but see the benefit in creating a better environment for passengers to arrive and leave from the airport.
“It’s interesting that airports like Adelaide have also established a landscaped zone in front of the terminal, even though it’s not mandatory in Australia,” says Berry. “They’ve taken advantage of the country’s weather and created a Mediterranean style piazza which has been landscape with water features, covered walkways, and cafes.”
These new areas are being used to create a sense of place and a sense of occasion for passengers as soon as they arrive at the airport.
“We know that passengers primarily complain about toilets but second to
that is the "sense of place". Passengers want the point of arrival and departure to represent a sense of where you are in the world,” adds Berry.
An increasingly common trend is the use of automatic people movers (APMs) to transport passengers from outskirt facilities such as car rental centers, onto the terminal forecourts themselves.
These developments are in turn being driven by advances in technology such as automated check-in desks and bag drop points (both in the terminals and car parks), and other advances such as robotic parking systems like RAY at Dusseldorf Airport in Germany. Ultimately these technologies are reducing the space needed for check-in areas and parking, freeing up space to install new attractions and handle more passengers in the landside areas.
“The space that is required for what is now bag drop and self-service check-in is considerably less than the huge check-in halls that have been built in the past. Airports are now looking at the possibility of locating these functions in the car park and landside interchange, so the terminal becomes primarily an airside facility.”
But what does this mean for the airport of the future? It’s common to point to the idea of the airport city or ‘aerotropolis’ as the future of air travel, but Berry feels that this neglects some of the essential differences between an airport and a city.
“There’s no doubt the development around airports has made perfect sense. The argument starts to fall down when you say that they’re going to become cities in their own right. Cities are much more than just office buildings, roads and hotels. Great cities are about civic places where you eat, work, live, relax within a memorable public realm.
"The next big transport revolution will be driverless cars, which I believe will be with us sooner than we think. The impact on our lives will be similar to the changes that occurred when we started driving cars rather than riding horses."
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