Why airports need first-class design

For our final issue of 2014, we look at a broad range of subjects, one of which is aviation design. For me, it was a pleasure to explore this sector in detail.

As well as interviewing two experts on the subject, the article involved identifying the very best airports across the Middle East and the rest of the world.

From my own personal experience, by far the best airport I have visited is Madrid-Barajas. It is the only airport where I have felt compelled to take photographs from every angle, at the risk of missing my return flight, or even detainment by airport security.

Of course, Dubai’s terminals are undoubtedly impressive, but there is something about Madrid’s which makes it stand out from the rest of the pack, in terms of design.

In spite of the building’s size, the warm and playful treatment of the ceiling helps to create a sense of calm in a potentially stressful environment. Richard Rogers and Antonio Lamela have created what many consider to be a modern masterpiece of design.

I was pleased to hear that my two expert interviewees – Clive Naylor and Melkan Tabanlio?lu – both emphatically agreed that Madrid-Barajas is one of the world’s best.

Naylor also pointed to Heathrow Terminal 2 as a great example of aviation design. The newly revamped terminal is perhaps most notable for its 70m-long sculpture by British artist Richard Wilson. Yet from the photographs, it would appear that the artwork is perhaps more inspiring than the architecture. As a British national resident in Dubai, I am yet to visit the new terminal, but I will get the chance when I return to the UK over the Christmas period.

Although I’d love my favourite airport to be in either the UK or UAE, I’ ll probably never experience the same level of aviation-induced excitement as I felt in Madrid.

Barajas is just too good.

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