WINNER of the JURY PRIZE in the Architizer A+ Awards 2016
Travel demand in the aviation industry is set to double by 2030 and continue increasing exponentially into the future. In order to satisfy demand and the increasing importance of the airport on local economies, capacity in the industry needs to increase. Commercial aviation has been around for little over a century but has become mundane and ordinary due to its ubiquity. Airports have suffered under the strain of the increasing demand and have become isolated processing stations. The effects of aviation on the environment, globally with greenhouse emissions relating to climate change and locally with noise and air pollution, necessary security measures and maintaining safety have caused this isolation.
Airports need to adapt themselves to become more attractive gateways and capture as much of the air traffic demand as possible, to in turn drive their local economy. This project responds to the developments that are being made in aviation today, such as the local flight context, take-off and landing, aircraft ground movements, security, passenger processing and ground operations. These can inform new architectural opportunities for the airport design, that provide a better relationship between the airport, the city and the traveller.
This project uses Stockholm, one of the fastest growing cities in Europe, as a testing ground to establish a fully integrated urban airport as part of a new city district, imagining a time when aviation technology might be advanced enough that aircraft and airports could operate from within our cities. Design solutions are generated in response to aviation research (see design research thesis at the bottom of this page) to suggest how a new design approach to the airport can be achieved. By creating a fully integrated urban airport, airport systems join city systems as part of the city’s infrastructure, including micro-termini, city-wide baggage systems and shorter runways to slot into the urban context. Through such mechanisms it is possible that airports may operate within a city on a more environmentally friendly level. The wonder of flight is immersed within the heart of the city.
The project forms an airport as part of an imagined city district developed within the Lilla Vartan Strait in Stockholm, between Lidingo and Ostermalm.
In the urban airport, aircraft gently glide along elevated taxi-track systems, by an autonomous electrically driven carriage. This allows for the aircraft’s engines to be completely disengaged, thus generating no local pollution from emissions or noise. The autonomous system optimises the taxiing process, reducing risk of delays and creating a green and safe operation. As aircraft navigation on the ground is strictly controlled via this taxiing system, the normally redundant land outside of the taxiways, aprons and runways at airports, can now be handed over to the city for urban development. Offices, Homes, Parks, Theatres, Markets etc. can now emerge within the airport infrastructure generating this new model of a city that operates so closely with the airport. The track system is raised up to create a physical barrier between the city and airport infrastructure for security, but also to create a sense of the magic of flight, with these amazing machines passing gently above. Aircraft passing above public areas are not uncommon today, with Frankfurt or Amsterdam Schiphol airports being examples of the amazing moments when aircraft have to cross over neighbouring motorways.
Down on the city level, waterways follow the taxi tracks above, to retain the water culture so important in Stockholm and provide an alternative mode of transport through the city, yet also activating the space underneath. Public spaces then step up around creating an amphitheatre style setup with many dynamic views over the water and the aircraft above. Shops and Restaurants flank the canals forming what would typically be the departures lounge of the airport terminal. Here, the city becomes the airport terminal and the airport becomes a ‘place’, not just for passengers but for city dwellers also.
Automated baggage systems are built as part of the services infrastructure of the city. Local baggage kiosks are provided in convenient locations throughout the city, where passengers can drop their bags for a flight or collect them on arrival, removing the stress of having to carry your luggage around, and pressure on airport terminals. Digital developments such as personal digital bag tags, pre-prepared remotely from the airport allow passengers to effectively ‘drop-and-go’. The system then uses the digital information to take the bag directly to the relevant aircraft gate, where it will be automatically sorted and loaded onto the aircraft. A city-wide baggage system will communicate with smart-devices of passengers, where they can manage their own travel, thus creating a personalised airport experience.
Two runways run north to south through the middle of the city district, which are connected to the micro-terminals by the elevated taxi-track system, which weave through the city above waterways. The carriage system, used for the aircraft taxi-process, extends itself into the take-off and landing process also. This nods to initiatives such as Airbus’s Smarter Skies Vision, which sees assisted carriages propelling aircraft along the runway via electronic systems, reducing the amount of energy required by the aircraft themselves. This therefore not only reduces the noise and local air pollution effects during this phase of flight, but also reduces the runway length needed, allowing for runways to slot into urban contexts better. The urban typology immediately surrounding the runway is intentionally kept low to give clearance to the runway and passing aircraft. But with aircraft systems becoming ever more accurate, aircraft could one day land or take-off within urban contexts with pin-point accuracy.
As part of the public transport strategy of the airport city, a PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) System is introduced. This can co-align itself with smart-device applications that can navigate the user through the city. The automated system, removes the need for private cars, and provides an environmentally friendly, quiet and gentle solution. Stations are provided at convenient locations, adjacent also to self-service baggage kiosks. Passengers can use the system to take them directly to their aircraft gate in time, enabling them to maximise their time in the city. Water-taxis, walking and cycling is also encouraged as a primary mode of getting around the airport, something which is typically reserved for the train or car today
With the city becoming the traditional airport terminal, the micro-terminal’s function is therefore to provide a transition point from city to flight or vice-versa. The creation of the micro-terminal is generated from the acknowledgement that we less and less need the airport terminal to provide passenger processing functions like check-in for example. Already today, these processes can happen remotely on a mobile device, allowing passengers to show up and board in as little time as possible. Baggage is becoming ever more digital, and in this project it is removed from the passenger terminal completely. The airport can be deconstructed. Micro-terminals are created to provide a seamless transition between the city and the aircraft at a more familiar scale, but also to help the airport slot into the urban context.
These micro-terminals remove any long walks or transit times seen in mega-terminals today. Passengers can arrive or depart directly by boat, foot, cycle or PRT Pod. Aircraft park on large parking ‘pads’, which bridge over the water below from the passenger terminal in the middle to services towers on either side. In these towers, baggage is automatically delivered as well as catering, water, fuel and waste etc. to keep the turnaround operation as efficient as possible. When an aircraft is ready to depart, it can just continue on forward, creating a constant flow of aircraft through the buildings. As with the micro-terminal and the city itself, the aircraft are always in view, immersing the passenger and the city dweller in the magic of flight.