The new departures and arrivals building of Helsinki Airport comprises two distinct volumes; the first one defined by its wooden ceiling, the second by its blue color. In addition to the departures and arrivals halls, the building contains a multimodal travel center and the areas for security control, customs and baggage reclaim. As the new building connects directly to the airport’s old terminal 2, it follows the traditional logic of separating the flows of departing and arriving passengers onto different levels. The project that started with a design competition launched in 2016, has been built according to the BREEAM Excellent standards as one of the first alliance projects in Finland – with the airport remaining fully functional throughout construction.
For years, architects have aimed at creating illusions of flying and of overall lightness with their designs for terminal roofs and ceilings. This is true also at Helsinki Airport – the ceilings of the older construction phases are seemingly lightweight and tectonic. Even the ceiling of the new departures hall plays with the concept of lightness, but combines it with extreme weight. The use of steel structures has enabled the construction of both the column-free departures hall and the massive entrance canopy. These structures are hidden inside the thick ceiling made of prefabricated timber units. The thickness is noticeable when looking at the deep recess of the skylight in the middle of the departures hall. The plasticity of the overall form however makes the ceiling seem as if it was floating in the air. Just like the sight of a jumbo jet taking off, it defies common sense. The flowing shapes of the spruce boards resembling contour lines turn the ceiling into an upside-down version of a three-dimensional map that leads the passengers’ thoughts towards the sky above the runway.
The blue security control volume between the new departures hall and the old terminal building is recognizable already from further away. The blue color continues from the exterior cladding to inside the building. When entering the building, the departing passengers immediately notice the blue area behind the check-in kiosks. In addition to improving recognizability, the blue color has a calming effect in the sometimes-stressful security check situation.
The first thing the arriving passengers see after having passed through customs, is the "Luoto" nature diorama, a freeform installation with trees, shrubs and stones in a large cor-ten planter. "Luoto" combines the characteristics of Finnish nature with Japanese garden art. It is also visible from the upper departures level through the opening in the middle of the check-in area. Whereas when looking up through the opening, the arriving passengers will see both the wooden ceiling and the blue sky visible through the skylight above.
One of the main goals of the project, in addition to improving the airport’s overall functionality and the passenger experience, was to bring adventure and romance back to air travel. The airport now offers a perfect setting for both goodbye kisses and welcoming hugs.