January 06, 2003

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Airport Design When I was younger, a highlight of any trip I took involved getting to know the airports and train stations that were part of the trip. Since I lived in Mexico City, the Benito Juarez International Airport became a significant structure early on. This airport, and many others at that time, had a clean and spare modernist logic. One huge marble hallway allowed the criss-crossing of passengers on the way to the smooth, curved plastic ticket counters. Despite the fact that waiting would be an important component of the experience, the black leather seats sprinkled throughout the hall seemed to be added for the sake of aesthetics rather than convenience. I feel nostalgia for these types of airports. Their organization and decor drive one toward one central activity: transit. The lack of regional decor or identity within the edifice made it clear that you had entered a conduit. Once you entered the airport, you were invited to shed the sensory memories of the location you had dwelled in. Now, your senses were being purged in preparation for travel to a new locale -- where new sensory data could bombard you and thrill you with the newness of it all. The architecture and organization invited meditation on what was to come. Nowadays, airports have succumbed to commercialization. The Philadelphia International Airport, for instance, has constructed a mall in the largest and most congested hall of the airport. This makes it difficult to slip into the dreamy anticipation that precedes travelling. Given that this commercial standardization of airports is a trend, airports are losing their ability to focus travellers' attentions on the process of slipping from one environment to another. My city has plenty of Starbucks and Brookstone outlets -- now, they follow me to the airport, on-flight and to the destination's...

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