Posts tagged with "Airports":
On April 22, the city of Denver inaugurated the Denver International Airport Transit Center, a commuter rail terminal that anchors the previously completed Westin hotel. The transit center provides Denver with a key piece of infrastructure (not to mention a signifier of ambition and status) while finally completing a plan that was over 20 years in the making.
In the transit center and associated hotel, Gensler’s steady hand has provided Denver with a handsome, if unexceptional, addition to the airport. Few designs, including Calatrava’s original proposal, could match the tectonic celebration that is the original Fentress Architects–designed terminal. However, Gensler carefully crafted a piece of architecture that is deferential to the unique and timelessly beautiful structure, while humbly presenting its own attractive qualities. From the catenary swoop of the Westin roof to the well-executed structural canopies interpenetrating it, this is a project that aspires to deliver great design in spite of the city’s traditionally conservative approach to architecture.
The transit center suffers from a common problem in Denver projects: an uneven approach to landscape. Denver-based landscape architects Valerian and studioINSITE provided a variety of landscaped spaces, but it seems that only those that are inaccessible and visible from afar are attractive. The crux of the project—the plaza between the new hotel and the existing terminal hall through which passengers pass when moving from the train station to the airport terminal—is a drab beige and lifeless expanse of brick pavers and an insult to the original terminal and the aspirations of this new addition.
A major component was the procurement of a wide variety of public art and its integration with the architectural and landscape design. In most cases, such as Patrick Marold’s Shadow Array, it supplements the design in a harmonious and aesthetically pleasing way. In the grand public plaza, however, Ned Kahn’s kinetic artwork only adds to the lifeless melancholia, making the traveler wish for a patch of swaying greenery, which, ironically, Kahn’s piece is supposed to evoke.
Denver’s new train line is anchored by exceptional architecture on both ends (SOM’s canopy at Union Station is a symphony of structure and simplicity), as well as generally impressive pieces of monumental public art at every station. Yet the project is being used to justify and support the unsustainable suburban sprawl slowly creeping eastward. The city has focused on the financial impact of additional airport hotels and conference centers being developed at the Peña Boulevard station, but one must wonder what value they add to Denver’s culture and what environmental and social debt we have incurred by supporting their construction. Not all commuters and visitors will use transit, and the burdens of commuting weigh unevenly on the most marginalized and financially strained citizens among us.
If the city does intend to stitch together the thirty mile gap between central Denver and the airport with new development, we should aim higher than lifeless beige boxes surrounded by parking lots in spite of the transit line just feet away. Conversely, while central Denver’s Union Station and the adjacent train canopy provide viable anchors for downtown revitalization, they are hemmed in and overpowered by ramparts of beige stucco and cement siding. Marketing materials for both the transit center and Union Station have championed the economic impact of the development they will spur, which is no doubt important, but architecture aspires to be measured by more than function and economic effect.
Just as the design of this new hotel and transit center ignores the spaces that knit the project together with the past, so has Denver ignored the workaday spaces that compose the majority of the city. City government (and, by extension, the voters) seem to believe that no matter how dismal the majority of urban infill is (or how unsustainable development in an empty field is), they can drop a Libeskind, Graves, or Calatrava in the middle of it and somehow lend Denver the cultural and aesthetic capital they feel it should have. The overlooked projects that make up the urban fabric have been so thoroughly neglected—in form and execution and analysis and criticism—that the city lacks the cultural vocabulary necessary to articulate what is off about its built environment. Like many American cities, Denver is struggling with its low zoning density, huge numbers of cars, uncultivated aesthetic standards, and particularly oppressive height restrictions. Projects like Denver International Airport’s Hotel and Transit Center (and the larger FasTracks regional transit initiative) are but the germ of a solution.
One attractive project alone cannot chart a new course for architectural and urban design in the city. Denver is blessed with many of the ingredients necessary for a sophisticated and expressive regional modernism to flourish: a native population that cherishes the city, a steady stream of immigrants, a strong environmental consciousness, plentiful local materials, robust building trades, advanced manufacturing and fabrication, and a unique climate. What the city requires is an elevated discourse around architecture and urbanism that goes beyond a limited number of showcase projects and is fostered by the same degree of cultural investment and education that Denver has put into its public art program and economic development initiatives—the results of which speak for themselves.
With a new report, London Mayor and Conservative MP Boris Johnson has re-pitched his Thames Estuary Transport Hub, dubbed “Boris Island” by some, as an alternative to additional runways at Gatwick and Heathrow Airports. The project is in a similar vein to the Riker's Island La Guardia airport expansion proposed by Jim Venturi.
The proposal, initially launched in 2013, was masterplanned by Norman Foster. With other major infrastructure projects like High Speed Two (new high-speed rail lines that would link London to cities as far as Leeds) and CrossRail already in the pipeline, “Boris Island” has never been a fit for UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s austerity government.
In 2014, the Airports Commission ditched the scheme due to its high capital costs. Two years later the idea has resurfaced, along with the Mayor’s newfound political clout as he defies his incumbent party leader David Cameron in backing an E.U. exit.The plan promises rail, sea, aircraft, communication and power infrastructure amalgamated into one hub on the Thames estuary in Kent by the medway. New flight paths into the capital would also mean much less noise pollution, something that already plagues areas adjacent to the two-runway Heathrow airport. Additionally, Foster cites how every three months, a plane low on fuel or with an engine failure flies over London, a risk this plan would alleviate. A proposed rail network would also run around the capital, instead of through it, to reach the airport island and Europe beyond. This, in Foster’s eyes, would bridge the UK's North/South divide and create more trade with the European continent. This rail network would also link up to the existing and under-construction High Speed 2 and CrossRail network.
Also part of the plan would be a new hydroelectric facility in the Thames that would power the hub. With an existing barrier already in action downstream, two miles east of the Isle of Dogs, this new construction would further protect against rising sea levels.
Foster + Partners does have a good track record in delivering similar schemes. Both Beijing's airport—the biggest airport in the world—and Hong Kong's airports were delivered on time and on budget by the firm. They were also voted by travelers as “the best airport experiences in the world.”
In his report Landing The Right Airport, Mayor Johnson states that Foster’s hub is the only way to secure enough capacity. "Our analysis predicts that they would offer around double the number of long haul and domestic destinations served by Heathrow today, while exposing 95% fewer people to significant aircraft noise,” he says.
According to the BBC, Daniel Moylan, aviation adviser to the Mayor, says the plan could cost up to $35 billion—with an extra $35 billion needed for road and rail connections. A third runway could cost $28 billion.
However, opponents argue the transport hub would cost significantly more, at around $130 billion. Not only that, it would also disrupt wildlife habitats as well as rendering Southend and London City airports obsolete. Meanwhile travel time into central London would also be longer compared to Heathrow.
Johnson though, remains undeterred. "If we are to secure the connectivity we need to support our future growth and prosperity and do so without dire impacts on public health—then we must do better than Heathrow,” he concluded.
Curved metal facade embodies spirit of mobility at LAX.The commission to design a new Central Utility Plant (CUP) for Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) came with a major caveat: the original 1960s-era CUP would remain online throughout construction, providing heating and cooling to adjacent passenger terminals until the new plant was ready to take over."We had to keep the existing CUP up and running, build the new one, do the cutover, then tear down the old CUP and build a thermal energy storage tank in its place," explained Gruen Associates project designer Craig Biggi. "It was a very challenging project from that standpoint—working in a 24/7 environment, and getting everything up and running within a small footprint." But despite these and other hurdles, the design-build team (which included Clark/McCarthy, A Joint Venture as general contractors, Arup as A/E design lead, and Gruen Associates as architect) succeeded in delivering the new CUP in time to support LAX's newest terminal. Its curved stainless steel and glass facade captures the airport's spirit of mobility, and helps restore a sense of cohesion to an otherwise fragmented built landscape. LAX is a busy place, both aesthetically and with respect to passenger movement. "There's a lot of visual activity happening there," explained Biggi. "It's been built up over time, so there's this layering effect. This was meant to be an architectural design that not only simplifies some of the visual confusion, but addresses the context of the airport itself as a site that has a lot of movement." When shaping the building envelope, the designers looked at concepts of laminar flow, of which one example is the passage of air over an aircraft wing. "What we came up with was a streamlined architectural expression that ties together three distinct programmatic elements," said Biggi. "The project uses this expression to tie into the existing context by flowing around corners, then opens up at certain locations to allow the program to have ventilation and views." The CUP's primary facade is clad in stainless steel composite panels within a pressurized rain screen system. The architects chose stainless steel, explained partner-in-charge and project manager Debra Gerod, to respond to the potentially corrosive effects of jet fuel and other chemicals as well as the salty Southern California air. In addition, "we had to work to get a finish that wouldn't create reflections," said Gerod. "We're right underneath the control tower. Being mindful that the sun can be at any angle, bouncing off airplanes, that [became a] careful performance-based element" of the design. Non-curved sections of the CUP's envelope feature corrugated aluminum panels, which reduce the risk of reflection and help camouflage functional components including large doors that allow the installation and replacement of equipment. "How we were able to put these giant openings into the side of the facade and have it be blended in and aligned with the corrugated metal paneling—these were some of the things we really paid a lot of attention to," said Gerod. Similarly, the ribbon windows on the stainless steel facade help conceal exhaust louvers, in addition to providing views from the engineers' offices. "We always looked at opportunities for streamlining the aesthetic of the exterior," said Biggi. "We were looking for simple massing that looked fluid in its resolution." Gruen Associates designed the new CUP as a visual landmark for passersby, installing a massive window on the north facade in order to reveal the interior of the chiller room. "This is a bit of an homage to the old CUP," explained Gerod. "When it was first built, it was a really nice building: round, with lots of glass. By the time we got to it, things were spilling out in all directions. But as originally designed, it had a view into the inner workings of the plant." Meanwhile, the architects used blue-colored LEDs and reflectors moved by the wind to create a lighting effect on the adjacent thermal energy storage tank—which, like the nearby cooling towers, is also clad in stainless steel—that mimics the rippling motion of a swimming pool at night. "The lighting effect is meant to address passengers as they're driving down Center Way, and give some animation to the large mass of the storage tank," said Biggi. Here, too, the designers were careful to plan the lighting so as not to interfere with air traffic control functions. LAX's new CUP, which is targeting LEED Gold certification, promises a 25 percent increase in efficiency over the 50-year-old plant it replaces. With continued expansion in the offing, it did not arrive on the scene any too soon. Though much of the design was shaped by current conditions at the airport, including both functional considerations and an aesthetic embrace of the airport's hectic pace, Gruen Associates simultaneously thought ahead, to a larger—but hopefully visually more coherent—LAX. Should a proposed terminal extension to the west come to pass, the CUP's curved stainless steel facade will provide a backdrop for the newer buildings, setting the stage for a more deliberate approach to the airport's ongoing transformation.