Terminals For Dummies

How to capture the spirit of flight? A photo-story by The New York Times on the recently re-opened TWA Flight Center shows us Finnish-American architect and industrial designer, Eero Serannani’s glorious response.

Completed in 1962, Serannani’s building is a striking, futurist space with bold, sweeping lines that resembles a retro-future space ship. In truth, Serannani’s inspiration was a bird with its wings spread in full. Regardless, the building a spectacular achievement that looks every bit as modern today as it did close to fifty years ago.

Compare this to the Dubai-Lite airports closer to home. We may be building more than ever but as the new airports in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai and New Delhi suggest, scale is no substitute for imagination. The new airports are big and shiny, but they are little more than malls with gates.

Given that airports play a powerful role in making first impressions, the new airports are lost opportunities. As with the TWA Flight Center, great airports give flying a sense of occasion. They instill a sense of child-like joy about the very idea of being airborne and that this, the airport, is where you come to get your fix. The current crop simply lack the magic.

One city’s loss though, can be another city’s gain.

There are plenty of airports that still need mending and building. Mayors and airport authorities would do well to make the most of these opportunities and commission architects with a little more in their oeuvre than those involved in making our one-style-fits-all terminals.

Will we see a sculpturally led Nagpur airport? A modernist rendition in Patna? Or a Swiss-Indian stunner by Herzog + DeMeuron in Kolkata?

Whatever the ambition, all parties involved could do well to study Saarinen’s efforts.

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