It’s 19:22 on a Thursday evening. A muffled male voice reverberates through the overhead speakers calling passengers to board their flight to Denver; they’ll be home in time for a night-cap. People line up accordingly as their ticket scanner summons them by means of a sonorous microphone to proceed through a hard-to-find door that blends in nicely with the cheap vinyl wall covering beside it. You can hear distant similarities from other gates beyond rendering obfuscating announcements; the anti-church bell across town reminding you it’s time for mass. We’re called by group, a more polite way to classify us by bank accounts. Frequent this… flyer that… advantage this… class that— what ever other adjectives you can find on an airlines advertisement to signify who gets to board first onto a 450,000 pound tin can. The ceilings of airports drown you in an ocean of acoustic ceiling tiles littered with recessed can lights four feet apart on center in a bidirectional mannerism. “Art” is strategically placed where space wasn’t strategically planned. Diffusers and air supply vents attempt to hide but the blinking light of the wifi router nearby gives away their position. We’ve gotten rid of bays of seating so we can charge our phones; phones that we won’t even be able to use for the next few hours. The charging station wasn’t proactive but rather reactive— an allergic reaction as a result from the poor battery life of mobile phones in their awkward teenage years that has now covered airports like hives. Anywhere you look you can find swarms of people around charging stations; a moth to light is no different. Now that battery life has made leaps, what do we do with all these charging stations? Don’t worry I’m certain we’ll turn them into a way to make money. Take a cross section through an airport gate and it’s the same thing: (starting with outside and working our way inwards) curtain wall glass usually sloped for some nonsensical reason, a flimsy partition with an airline emblem attached (preferably back-lit), an employee in uniform matching the flying machine behind them, cheap casework with two computer stations (never more than two please), some seating, and a Gordian knot of impatient travelers huddled in a hurry to sit down in an assigned seat that has an ethically questionable amount of leg room. It’s the same in Sea-Tac as it is in Schiphol; the only difference is the unintelligible language bleeding out of the ceiling speakers. There’s no airport that’s too “big”. Ever notice that? You should thank the travelator for that. Once they’ve crossed that threshold of “big” the size doesn’t necessarily matter. The internal network web of tacky retail shopping laced with overpriced McDonald’s will always find a way to adapt to the size of any airport. They are the one size fits all. There’s nothing stopping the airport from saying, “how about we put a place for people to iron their wrinkled shirt before their flight? They‘ll need it for that wedding tomorrow afternoon”. There’s nothing stopping it from asking, “what if airports had fresh air?” Normalities are becoming oddities. Oddities such as passing two Starbucks on the way to the restroom has become the normality. Here’s an idea: removing all seating from terminals and rethinking space. What if we programmed the “in betweens” of gate to gate. Let’s hang out at the pebble garden between B14 and B15. We spend enough time in airports to convert it from being a space to a place. We’re here temporarily. Just long enough to get the job done; a hooker and her customer. The real artistry isn’t the architect of the airport, it’s the person responsible for laying out banks of seats that dictate where the general public will stare at their phones; they’re the artist. At night you can see the reflections of the ceiling lights bounce off the curtain wall glass backwards until they begin mingling with the twinkle of the tarmac edge lights. No worries, the tv playing a loop of hypnotizing ads and dizzying weather updates will take care of any distraction the architecture may cause. The best thing to happen to the airport wasn’t TSA security; it was the seats with integrated power outlets. Imagine we could learn about flying and aircrafts while we waited; a tour between flights of a cockpit. Airports aren’t meant for you to get too comfortable, just comfortable enough to tell them an intimate story after a one-night stand then jet out the door before they tell you something personal. Airports work best covered in navy carpet tile and streaks of polished stainless steel wall bases. The art you find is the scarf of its mismatching outfit. Fascinating how a place meant to put you in the sky never has any skylights. Airports work best in plan, not section. Designers don’t need to think much of verticality when it comes to the airport, they worry horizontally. Rules of thumb: a bathroom every 2 minute walk. A travelator after every 25 gates. Retail wedged in between its knuckles. The $20 I <3 NY mug isn’t what kills me, it’s the overly polished terrazzo floors that’s reflecting every tube of light making it feel as if I’m walking through purgatory on my way to the pearly gates. Airports ought be thought out so well, it should be a place we’d consider having a third date. it’s too bad we’ve distilled it to being a pit stop considered the marvel of air conditioning that fills such emptiness.
If airports could talk, I wonder what they would say.
If airports could talk, I wonder what they would say.