Airport interiors are experiencing massive change

Have you ever wondered why airport interiors often come with eye-watering price tags? It’s a question that has puzzled many, especially when considering the seemingly simple task of creating spaces for travelers to wait, eat, and shop. However, the reality is far more complex than meets the eye.

At the heart of the matter lies a multitude of factors that contribute to the staggering costs of airport interior design and construction. First and foremost, airports are no ordinary buildings. They are massive, highly regulated, and technologically advanced structures that must meet stringent safety and security requirements. From specialized fire suppression systems to reinforced walls and blast-resistant glass, every element must adhere to a rigorous set of standards, driving up costs at every turn.

But it’s not just about safety. Airport interiors must also cater to the needs and expectations of millions of travelers each year. This means investing in top-of-the-line amenities, such as luxurious lounges, high-end retail spaces, and gourmet dining options. These features not only enhance the passenger experience but also serve as important revenue generators for airports.

The sheer scale of airport interiors is a significant factor in their astronomical costs. With millions of square feet to cover, the materials alone can add up quickly. From the finest marble floors to the most durable carpeting, every surface must be carefully selected to withstand the constant wear and tear of countless footsteps and rolling luggage.

Adding to the complexity is the fact that airport interiors must be constantly updated to keep pace with changing technology, security requirements, and passenger preferences. What was cutting-edge a decade ago may be outdated today, necessitating costly renovations and upgrades.

In the end, the billion-dollar price tags attached to airport interiors are a reflection of the immense challenges and responsibilities that come with creating these vital public spaces. From ensuring the safety and security of travelers to providing world-class amenities and experiences, every dollar investe

So, the next time you find yourself marveling at the grandeur of an airport interior, remember that behind every gleaming surface and inviting space lies a complex web of regulations, technologies, and passenger needs that contribute to the astronomical costs of these modern marvels.d in airport interiors plays a crucial role in keeping the world connected.

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George Nicola

George is a seasoned interior designer and property marketing strategist with over 13 years of experience. He specializes in transforming properties into visually stunning spaces, helping clients recognize the potential and beauty in each property. With an impressive international client base of exciting projects throughout Europe and America.

The main ideology behind airport interior design is to create a space that prioritizes the passenger experience while balancing functional requirements. This ideology is rooted in the understanding that airports serve as gateways to cities, regions, and countries, and therefore, their design should reflect the values and aspirations of the communities they serve.

At the core of this ideology is the concept of human-centered design, which places the needs and preferences of passengers at the forefront. This approach considers factors such as comfort, convenience, accessibility, and emotional well-being, and aims to create an environment that minimizes stress and enhances the overall travel experience.

Compared to other design philosophies, such as purely functional or aesthetic-driven approaches, the passenger-centric ideology of airport interior design is the most important one. It recognizes that the success of an airport depends on its ability to provide a positive and seamless experience for passengers, from arrival to departure.

For example, the 2018-19 new first-phase of Istanbul Grand International Airport project, which aimes to create the world’s largest terminal, had a total value planned at $7 to 8B which doubled to $14 billion, with a focus on passenger comfort and future-proof design With current mid-stage capacity of 90 millions constructed over a 25-26 sq.km (10.14 sq.m) with a perimeter distance of 20.54km (12.76 miles) and total floor area of 76,5 sq.m, will be able to operate 500 aircrafts at any given moment on ground the airport planned to be fully open and operational by 2028 with capacity of 200 million passengers.

An interior design of such scale is more likely to exceed 10 to 50 million dollars just for the project alone.

History of airport designs

A futuristic airport terminal with people in mid-century attire. Airplanes are visible outside and inside, suspended from the ceiling. The design features large, red curved structures and windows, offering a glimpse into the evolution of airport interiors through time.
A futuristic airport terminal with people in mid-century attire. Airplanes are visible outside and inside, suspended from the ceiling. The design features large, red curved structures and windows, offering a glimpse into the evolution of airport interiors through time.

Airports have evolved significantly over time, with changes driven by advancements in technology, increased passenger traffic, and shifting priorities in security, efficiency, and passenger experience.

The early airports  in 1920s-1940s had simple designs with basic facilities, mainly grass runways and small terminal buildings designed for limited passenger flow and minimal amenities.

In the Post-World War II (1950s-1960s)  expansion due to the rise of commercial air travel, paved runways and larger terminal buildings, introduction of jet aircraft, requiring longer runways and improved infrastructure.

The 1970s-1980s saw significant increase in passenger traffic, development of hub-and-spoke system for efficient airline operations, larger, more complex terminal designs with multiple concourses leading to the 1990’s to present.

The modern era saw increased security measures post-9/11, including advanced screening technologies, self-service technologies (e.g., check-in kiosks, automated baggage drop), integration of retail, dining, and entertainment options for passengers all leading to development of eco-friendly and sustainable airport designs.

How airports interiors are designed for Passenger Flow?

Airport interiors are carefully designed to optimize passenger flow, ensuring efficient movement and minimizing congestion. The primary goal is to create a seamless and intuitive experience for travelers, from the moment they enter the airport until they board their flight.

Clear signage and wayfinding: Effective signage and wayfinding systems are crucial in directing passengers through the airport. This includes using easily recognizable symbols, colors, and terminology to guide passengers to check-in counters, security checkpoints, gates, and other important areas. Well-designed signage reduces confusion and stress, allowing passengers to navigate the airport more efficiently.

A long, colorful corridor with rainbow-colored panels casting vibrant reflections on the floor. Three people walk through the walkway, which boasts large windows on one side and shops on the other—a testament to innovative airport design.
A long, colorful corridor with rainbow-colored panels casting vibrant reflections on the floor. Three people walk through the walkway, which boasts large windows on one side and shops on the other—a testament to innovative airport design.

Logical layout and zoning: Airport interiors are organized into distinct zones based on the different stages of the passenger journey. This typically includes the check-in area, security screening, departure lounges, and gate areas. By creating a logical and sequential layout, passengers can move through the airport more easily, minimizing backtracking and reducing overall travel time.

There are three major principles for logical layout and zoning in airport interiors:

  • Process Flow: The layout should prioritize the smooth and efficient flow of passengers, baggage, and staff throughout the airport. This includes clear wayfinding signage, logical placement of facilities (e.g., check-in counters near entrances, security checkpoints centrally located), and minimizing congestion points.

  • Functional Zoning: Different areas within the airport should be designated for specific functions, such as arrivals, departures, retail, dining, and lounges. This creates distinct zones that cater to the varying needs of passengers at different stages of their journey, enhancing their overall experience.

  • Flexibility and Adaptability: Airport layouts should be designed with future growth and changing needs in mind. This can be achieved through modular design, adaptable spaces, and infrastructure that can be easily modified or expanded. This ensures that the airport can efficiently accommodate increasing passenger volumes, new technologies, and evolving security requirements.

Aesthetic Considerations for airport interiors

When designing airport interiors, aesthetics play a crucial role in enhancing the passenger experience through strategic use of light, thematic decor, and cultural displays.

A spacious mall interior with modern architectural details, reminiscent of airport architecture, featuring tall, tree-like columns and a high, intricate ceiling. Shoppers and stores are visible throughout the polished, open space.
A spacious mall interior with modern architectural details, reminiscent of airport architecture, featuring tall, tree-like columns and a high, intricate ceiling. Shoppers and stores are visible throughout the polished, open space.

Use of Light and Space

Airports utilize natural light and space to create a sense of openness and calm. Large windows and skylights are specifically placed to maximize daylight, while artificial lighting is designed to adapt to different times of day, reducing stress and assisting with wayfinding.

Thematic Decor and Ambience

Each airport may choose a specific theme that reflects its identity, using colorstextures, and materials that resonate with its locale. The thematic decor aims to create a distinctive atmosphere that can range from serene and natural to vibrant and energetic.

Art and Cultural Displays

Art installations and cultural exhibits serve as focal points within airport interiors, offering visual interest and a sense of place. Often commissioned from local artists, these pieces showcase regional heritage and contribute to the airport’s unique character.

Functional Elements of Airports

The design of airport interiors prioritizes passenger flow and operational efficiency while ensuring comfort and access to amenities. Each feature is calculated to mold the travel experience into one that is streamlined and stress-free.

Signage and Wayfinding

Airports use signage and wayfinding systems to facilitate easy navigation through complex terminal layouts. They employ visually clear and universally recognizable symbols alongside text to guide passengers. For example:

  • Arrivals and Departures: Distinctly marked, often with arrows leading the direction of travel.
  • Gates: Numbered or lettered with corresponding signage visible from multiple angles and distances
A spacious, modern hall with large windows and a tall ceiling features a white crumpled wall art installation and several rows of gray seating, reflecting cutting-edge design often seen in airport interiors.
A spacious, modern hall with large windows and a tall ceiling features a white crumpled wall art installation and several rows of gray seating, reflecting cutting-edge design often seen in airport interiors.

Retail and Dining Spaces

Retail and dining areas are strategically integrated into airport designs, serving as both a source of revenue and passenger convenience. They are often situated:

  • In proximity to waiting areas, allowing easy access for passengers.
  • Along main thoroughfares to entice passerby traffic and maximize exposure.

Seating and Waiting Areas

Airports provide a variety of seating options to accommodate the needs of travelers, including:

  • Gate lounges: Chairs with charging ports and flight information displays.
  • Quiet zones: Areas designed for relaxation away from the bustle.

Seating arrangements are tailored to different group sizes and individual privacy preferences.

Psychological Factors in airport interior design

The design of airport interiors directly addresses passengers’ psychological responses, focusing on reducing stress and influencing behavior in a structured and positive manner.

View of an airport tarmac through a window, showcasing multiple aircraft, ground support vehicles, and a control tower in the background. The scene highlights the airport interior layout with a bottle and a chair visible in the foreground.
View of an airport tarmac through a window, showcasing multiple aircraft, ground support vehicles, and a control tower in the background. The scene highlights the airport interior layout with a bottle and a chair visible in the foreground.

Stress Reduction Strategies

Airports utilize design elements aimed at calming the senses and alleviating anxieties related to travel. For instance, the introduction of soothing colors, natural lighting, and clear signage are key factors in creating an environment that mitigates stress. Studies indicate that design features can evoke specific neural signatures that associate with relaxation and comfort.

  • Use of Color: Strategic application of color palettes to induce calmness and clarity.
  • Lighting: Dynamic lighting adapts to the time of day and travel stages to reduce tension.
  • Clear Signage: Implementation of easily understandable icons and signs, often with color coding, to simplify navigation.

Behavioral Influences

Airport designs also subtly guide passenger behavior to maintain an orderly flow and promote efficiency. This includes:

  • Wayfinding Solutions: Intuitive layout and directional cues ensure passengers move smoothly through checkpoints.
  • Seating Arrangements: Planned seating can influence passenger dwell time and distribution across the terminal.
  • Engagement Points: Positioning of artworks, displays, and interactive elements to capture attention and manage crowd dispersal.

Intuitive Orientation: Floor patterns, wall shapes, and ceiling designs are being utilized to direct passenger flow intuitively. Natural lighting is strategically used to suggest gathering spaces or decision points.

Accessibility: There’s a shift towards inclusive design, making airports accessible to all passengers with considerations for mobility and sensory impairments, ensuring an effortless experience for every traveler.

Environmental Sustainability in airport designs

In designing airport interiors, sustainability is a fundamental concern, where efforts are centered on energy efficiency and the use of sustainable materials. These design choices are vital to reducing the environmental footprint of airports.

Energy Efficiency

Airport interiors are meticulously designed to maximize energy efficiency. One common method is through the strategic use of natural light to reduce the need for artificial lighting. Additionally, high-efficiency LED lighting systems often couple with automated controls to minimize electricity usage during off-peak hours.

  • Use of natural light
  • Installation of LED lighting
  • Automated lighting control systems

Sustainable Materials

Airport interiors increasingly incorporate sustainable materials that are sourced responsibly and have a low environmental impact. This includes materials such as bamboo, reclaimed wood, or recycled steel for construction, which provide significant longevity while maintaining a lower carbon footprint compared to conventional materials.

  • BambooRapidly renewable, strong, and versatile.
  • Reclaimed Wood: Reduces deforestation, embodies unique aesthetics.
  • Recycled Steel: Minimizes waste and energy consumption in production.

Airport Safety and Security

Safety and security are paramount in airport interior design. Every aspect must foster a secure environment while not compromising on the passenger experience. Advanced materials and technologies are integrated to enhance safety features, and design elements are chosen to ensure easy monitoring by security personnel.

  • Materials: Fire-resistant and durable materials are used in construction.
  • Surveillance: Layouts are optimized for surveillance, with minimal obstructions for security cameras.
  • Emergency Exits: Clearly marked and easily accessible in case of evacuation.

Compliance with Regulations for DDS

Airport designs must adhere to a complex set of regulations which ensure safety, accessibility, and environmental sustainability. Airports have to comply with national and international standards, which dictate everything from the width of corridors to the types of facilities provided.

  • Accessibility: Design must accommodate passengers with disabilities, following ADA guidelines or equivalent.
  • Sustainability: Environmental regulations often require the use of sustainable materials and energy-efficient designs.

By focusing on passenger flow, safety and security, and compliance with regulations, airport interiors are crafted to provide a seamless and safe travel experience while meeting strict operational and legal standards.