As Beautiful As An Airport

Dave Haste
By Dave Haste Last edited 154 months ago
As Beautiful As An Airport

The late great Douglas Adams once wrote:

It is no coincidence that in no known language of the galaxy does there exist the expression ‘as beautiful as an airport’.

Words of wisdom, indeed. However, in a few years’ time, this once-universal truth could be fundamentally challenged.

The forthcoming Heathrow Terminal 5, scheduled to open in 2008, has been designed by a team of architects led by Richard Rogers (not Norman Foster, as claimed in the CNN article), and looks set to be quite pretty, if not exactly beautiful. Eye of the beholder, and all that.

As usual, it is difficult to discern any real details from the vast slew of incoherent bunkum being spouted by the ‘business strategy advisor’ and his associated noisemakers. For example:

What we’ve really tried to address here is that in the future, everybody’s going to have their own journey.

Great. However, it does seem clear that the designs have been based around natural light (i.e. lots of glass), reduced walking distances, and maximum retail potential. In fact, it seems that this latter influence has been one of the main motivations behind the design. The project’s retail designer says:

Heathrow and Gatwick probably make more money per passenger than any other airport in the world – they’re right up there.

Makes you proud, doesn’t it? However, it seems that these commercial ambitions might be at odds with the architects' lofty aesthetic design ideals.

Big name architects tend to be very precious about their buildings. In many cases there’s this big worry that retail brings far too much colour and far too much vibrancy and interferes with the pristine level of the design.

Can anyone else spot a hint of tension in that working relationship? Not surprising really – we’re sure that Lord Rogers would rather not see his beautiful new building turned into the next Bluewater. And who can blame him?

Still, if the commercial aviation industry fails as the result of a future long-term fuel crisis, at least we know that this lovely new building won’t go to waste.

Last Updated 19 January 2006