Driving the World

Luis Vidal

The aeronautical sector not only transports people but also drives the world. The figures speak for themselves: In 1970, the world’s population reached 3.7 billion, and almost 10% (350,000 people) took a plane. Now, half a century later, the planet has doubled its number of inhabitants (7.6 billion) and the amount of air passengers has increased more than tenfold, to almost 4 billion.

Luis Vidal

Luis Vidal is a Spanish architect with notable projects in many sectors that emphasize the user experience and embody social and environmental sensitivity. In our industry, his award-winning work includes Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport, named the World’s Best Airport Terminal according to 2018 Skytrax results. 

His firm, luis vidal + architects, is part of the team designing Boston Logan International Airport’s Terminal E modernization, the Terminal Modernization Program at Pittsburgh International Airport, the Great Hall renovation in Jeppesen Terminal at Denver International Airport and Phase 1 of the new Terminal F at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, among many other projects.

Are airports ready to take on this passenger traffic? What experience can they offer to users? Architecture must become the guarantor of air infrastructure excellence and success. Intuitive orientation, use of natural light, color, acoustics, flexibility, human scale...all must be used to make the door-to-door process as satisfying and pleasant as possible, tailor-made to meet travelers’ expectations and create positive, unforgettable memories.

Consequently, there is a need for more and better infrastructures, which implies an increase in funding from governments and the private sector. Only in this way it will be possible to face the challenges of the future, including the difficulties posed by a new generation of passengers that requires a different concept of airports. Responding to the new demands is an opportunity to innovate, to be at the forefront of the airport sector with sustainable and functional terminals.

Passenger growth seems unstoppable. The International Air Transport Association estimates that nearly 8.2 billion people will take a plane in 2037, and more than 1.3 billion will do so in the United States, which will have become the world’s second-largest aviation market by then.

This volume increase, together with demographic concentration in urban areas and expanding connectivity, places airports at the center of the social and economic scene. They have become the real driving force behind the growth of metropolises: genuine generators of activity, wealth and cultural exchange. Airports are the most relevant and influential works in cities because of their size, economic volume and what they represent.

Nowadays, airports are a traveler’s first and last image of a city. They are also the main gateways to and from each country. In many ways, airports are the cathedrals of the 21st century. That means their terminals must be modern, flexible and practical—capable of adapting to the passage of time and the challenges of the future. They must be designed as places of encounter and activity, dedicated to the well-being of users and with a deep aim of public service.

In short, every airport should be conceived and designed with one idea: not only to be a means to an end, but a destination in itself…a long-lasting memory…an experience made to measure, worth living for itself.

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