This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

Work on a $295 million modernization plan for the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport’s Terminal 1 by multiservice firm Gresham, Smith and Partners is nearly complete. The refresh, part of a slate of upgrades that will transform the regional airport into an international and domestic hub, will also host a 2,000-square-foot art installation and playground designed by architect Volkan Alkanoglu.

Cloud Scape will bring rounded, extruded play surfaces to the Fort Lauderdale airport.(Courtesy Volkan Alkanoglu)

Cloud Scape will bring rounded, extruded play surfaces to the Fort Lauderdale airport.(Courtesy Volkan Alkanoglu)

Alkanoglu’s Cloud Scape, commissioned by the Broward County Board of County Commissioners’ Cultural Division and located along a mezzanine level adjacent to one of the terminal’s busy ambulatories, is “inspired by the idea of aviation and literally translates it into a physical environment at the terminal” Alkanoglu explained. The playscape—made up of four discrete structures arranged linearly in a sky-blue-painted room—evokes the larger-than-life cumulus clouds one sees from an airborne plane and is, according to the architect, partially inspired by 1970s visionary designer Verner Panton’s Visona 2 installation, a “fantasy landscape” made up of a series of extruded, occupiable shapes.

Functionally, the caricatured shapes are designed to facilitate movement and play: They feature slides, portholes, and climbable surfaces all scaled to tot dimensions. The structures are for “playing in the clouds,” the designer explained. “Before you take off or after you land, you have the ability to immerse into this landscape of clouds.” Each is also designed to facilitate a different type of diversion. One takes the shape of a large donut, with a bubbly hole cut out of its center. Another is deconstructed, with each of the three constituent cloud profiles separated out to create a sitting shelf, another donut-hole-penetrated mass, and a small slide. The third is made up of cloud-shaped wedges that come together in a tight corner. And the fourth structure is more solid, with supple climbing surfaces, a rounded-step ramp, and another tunnel.

(Courtesy Volkan Alkanoglu)

(Courtesy Volkan Alkanoglu)

Of particular concern for Alkanoglu were the strict fire- and life-safety codes the project had to meet due to its airport setting and the fragile nature of its fledgling users. The structures are built out of Fire 1–rated Medite, a type of medium-density fiberboard, painted in white automotive paint and finished in clear polyurethane. Regulations by the National Recreation and Park Association also played a role in the design, dictating the spacing—six feet—between the structures as well as the detailing for various edge and corner conditions. Everything sits atop light- and dark-blue colored rubber flooring.

The project, currently in the permitting stages, will be fabricated by Indianapolis-based Ignition Arts and is expected to be complete May 2017.

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