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Thread: Airport terminal design

  1. #1

    Airport terminal design

    I have a question about terminals. I noticed that most newer terminals are linear creating very long walks from the security checkpoint to the gates. In addition, the whole terminal in effect becomes a corridor with narrow seating areas to the sides. Older terminals at JFK and LAX in particular are high ceilinged, circular spaces which means that you can see all the gates at once, sit anywhere in the terminal and no walking down endless corridors. Why is the new paradigm long corridors?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Eyes on the Street
    I have a question about terminals. I noticed that most newer terminals are linear creating very long walks from the security checkpoint to the gates. In addition, the whole terminal in effect becomes a corridor with narrow seating areas to the sides. Older terminals at JFK and LAX in particular are high ceilinged, circular spaces which means that you can see all the gates at once, sit anywhere in the terminal and no walking down endless corridors. Why is the new paradigm long corridors?

    I wouldn't be able to answer the "new paradigm" question regarding airport design, as I am only a City Planner and an aviation buff. (I would LOVE to get into airport planning though)
    I agree with your examples and even see that with the old Denver Stapleton airport which had a curved main terminal and concourses with gates off of that. The new(er) Denver International Airport is designed with straight, long, corridors.

    No insight, I guess, but reiteration.

    Mods: maybe we should move this to an airport design thread or something?

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    Last edited by Tranplanner; 28 Apr 2005 at 3:15 PM.
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    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    It's speculation on my part, but I think it's because of the need to accommodate more planes at one time, and bigger planes. It's easier to string them out than to bring them into a circle.

    Or it could be unimaginative designers or airport authorities.

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    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
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    Linear terminal building design is much more scalable. When you need more gates, you just slap another concourse on to the end of the long corridor connecting them all. With different designs, you end up needing to come up with all kinds of tricks to add gates. I think Dallas is a perfect example of this. Ever try to quickly get around on the trAAin there? Also it can be difficult for someone unfamilar with those types of airports to get around. Linear terminals are pretty easy to figure out.

    Of course, being in Atlanta, I'm quite use to the linear design since that is how Hartsfield-Jackson is laidout. But with a fifth (unsurprisingly, parrallel) runway under construction, a seperate terminal is being built for it to handle international flights seperate from domestic.

    I know some people swear by other designs. Kansas City is a collection of C shaped buildings. You park in the middle of the C and the gate is right across from where you walk in. This is nice but they can't scale the airport up and security is spread all over the place. I'm guessing they're going to be doing the whole song and dance of swabbing luggage there forever since they could never install the big bomb screening machines at every gate.
    As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. - H.L. Mencken

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    Mich_Airport_Planner's avatar
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    Long corridors seem to be the trend for redesigned hub airports. Factors that influence design are location and walking time. Most hub airports like to be linear because of the ease of transporting human cattle from one gate to the next without killing too many brain cells. (Minneapolis is the exception- that airport sucks for making connections and I have missed them because of a mile-long run from two different concourses; ironically my golf clubs and bags made the connection to the plane but I didn't after sprinting and getting a ride in a courtesy cart)

    Most airports are considered Origination/Destination airports (i.e. you fly to/from Tampa or Syracuse and 'connect through' them) are mostly designed to have a tolerable walking time from the parking structure or curb front to the gate. Granted this is null due to the new security regulations, but that is what the planners and airport arch's go for. So these are typically non-linear.

    Thus, walking time/access, functionality, and available space are the basic factors considered when designing or placing a terminal. Transportation access, human psychological factors (high, airy ceilings, stupid water fountains) are usually secondary or sexy things the tenants want on the 'inside'.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    Linear terminals are definitely for ease of expandability. BUT you do raise a good point about the cumbersome walks. Perhaps the circular and linear terminal styles could be combined, into a sort of... line of barbells. Circular pods of gates connected with linear corridors in between.

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    From the desk of a design firm employee...

    I work for a firm that does airport design (among other functions) and one major factor that some of our designers believe is the primary cause is the cost of non-linear design. Airports are expensive buildings to start with and the design directives lately include removal of all non-essential design costs. Curved designs (some of which are known as "Octopus" style concourses - a circle with gates on most of the circumference) include additional cost to aquire curved materials and to survey a curved building on the site.

    I too feel that this is not always the best for the passengers (especially after a particularly nasty run from one end of Detroit's airport to the other to catch a connection) it is a factor that tight budgets must consider. In my opinion, a design like Cleveland's airports (multiple linear concourses connected by an underground pedway) helps compact the linear design to accomodate passenger needs despite using linear concourses.

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    Cyburbian
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    Toronto's new terminal will look like this. It will eventually be 2 terminals(one is already complete) that are conneced by a people mover train.



    Current construction

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    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Nice pics of YYZ. Looks like a cool place to fly into.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

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