French anthropologist Marc Augé called them ‘non-places’.
Non-places are spaces where large numbers of people spend time every day, mainly alone, but always just passing through.
They include train stations, motorway rest areas, amusement parks and above all airports.
However, airports are not without a soul, or at least not all of them. Some feature innovative and revolutionary designs by real architecture celebrities.
Airports designed by archistars are the gateways and flagships of fast-paced, vibrant and high-tech cities.
Some look like cathedrals in the desert while others seamlessly blend with the landscape, but they all serve as a landmark and point of connection for millions of people all over the world.
Airports designed by archistars: The top 5
Shenzhen-Bao’an | Shenzhen, China.
Terminal 3 of one Southern China’s most important hubs bears the signature of Italian architect Massimiliano Fuksas. 500,000 square meters split between three levels are housed within a single element: a double honeycomb ‘skin’ that wraps around the entire structure. The canopy is made of 25,000 metal and glass elements which let the natural light filter through, creating a net-like pattern of light and shadows that accompanies passengers all the way to the gate.
Studio Fuksas has also been commissioned to design two further extensions of the airport planned for 2025 and 2035.
Aeropuerto de Carrasco | Montevideo, Uruguay.
The original terminal was inaugurated in 1947. In 2007, construction began on a new terminal designed by the Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly. The crowning feature of the structure is the monolithic low-curving roof which is 300 meters long. The result is the optical illusion of a roof floating in the air thanks to the thin supports that hold it up and the huge glass walls that run along the four sides of the building.
Franz-Josef Strauss | Munich, Germany
We’ve dedicated several articles to the most luxurious airport in Europe. However, we never cease to be amazed by the simple and modern elegance of its spaces. Designed by Koch + Partners of Munich, the concept puts the passenger in the spotlight. Wherever you are, it only takes quick a glace to orient yourself.
Directly across from the airport is the Hilton Munich Airport owned by Hilton Hotels & Resorts, designed by the famous German-American architect Helmut Jahn and landscape architecture specialists PWP Landscape Architecture.
Aéroport de Lyon-Saint-Exupéry | Lyon, France.
This airport makes it onto our list because of the building outside the airport which reminds us of a big bird ready to take off: the TGV train station, designed by none other than Santiago Calatrava. It was the first airport in history to be served by a high-speed train station. The project was entrusted to the Spanish-Swiss archistar following an international architecture competition in 1987.
Kansai Intl Airport | Osaka, Japan.
Declared one of the ten Civil Engineering Monuments of the Millennium by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2001, the design by the very famous Italian architect Renzo Piano is innovative mainly for its shape and location. The airport is situated on an artificial island created to accommodate the building. It took over 10,000 construction workers 38 months non-stop in order to build it.