airport design

Airports are not islands: there are cities out there

While airports are indeed unique, intriguing  – and sometimes frustrating – places all their own, they don’t exist in vacuums. Travelers have to get to them and from them.

The film below explores the relationship between the city and its airports; in this case New York City and its multiple airports.

The film was created on the occasion of the AERIAL FUTURES: Urban Constellations think tank in New York City, and explores ways we might improve air travel and urban life by better connecting cities and airports.



Delta breaks ground on its new LaGuardia terminal.

Maybe – someday – we’ll love New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Again.

Signs are pointing in the right direction.

On Tuesday Delta Air lines broke ground on its $4 billion, 37-gate facility at LaGuardia – part of the over-all transformation of the airport we’ve been promised.

Delta’s CEO, Ed Bastian, was there, along with New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and a variety of local and regional dignitaries.

“The groundbreaking at Delta’s facilities represents another step forward as we build an entirely new airport at LaGuardia,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Together with our private-sector partners, we are making rapid progress to create the world-class gateway to the Empire State that New Yorkers deserve.”

Delta’s new terminal promises four concourses with 37 flexibly-sized gates to accommodate Delta’s full fleet; a new, larger Delta Sky Club with a Sky Deck; new hold rooms with more seating; 30 percent more concessions space; and “sustainable and scalable technology befitting of an airport of the future.”

“We know the new LaGuardia is one that New Yorkers will be proud to call their hometown airport,” said Delta’s Bastian. “And we are confident that this investment will further cement Delta as the No. 1 airline in New York, with the best customer service and experience on the ground as well as in the air.”

Here are some drawings released by Gov. Cuomo’s office showing what’s in store. Let’s hope the art and greenery makes it to the final cut.





More on being old in an airport

Baskas had a tough time trying to lift a suitcase over the lip of the bag claim carousel while wearing an  'aging' suit

Here’s a bit more on my experience walking around Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in an ‘aging suit,’ with architects from Corgan as my guides.

The suit, developed in Germany and also referred to as a GERT (or Gerontological Test suit), is a collection of accessories that get attached to different areas of the body to temporarily add impairments that simulate being old – up to 30 years older than you are.

I wore spongy overshoes that made it hard to know when my feet were actually touching the floor; knee and elbow wraps, and a neck brace, to limit my movement and simulate joint stiffness; earmuffs to lower my hearing by about 10 dB; and blurred goggles to reduce my vision.

To make it even hard to walk around the airport, Michael Steiner, a senior associate at Corgan, added a heavy padded vest to my outfit, which brought the ensemble’s weight to somewhere around 30 pounds.

Wearing all that, I headed out into the terminal to experience being ‘old in an airport.’

The blurry goggles made it difficult to see which floor number to push in the elevator.
The spongy shoes made it difficult to know where I was stepping, especially when it came time to get on and off the escalator.

At baggage claim it was really difficult to lean over, grab my test suitcase and pull it up over the lip of the metal wall.

My walk through the airport was escorted, but in this age of “If you see something, say something,” here I was wearing a strange outfit that either made me look like I’d been an accident – or was out to hurt someone else – but no one approached me either to find out what I was up to – or to offer help.

True, I couldn’t quite see or hear other people with those decibel-reducing earmuffs and fuzzy goggles on, but that was exactly the point of putting the suit on in the first place, said Corgan’s Michael Steiner,

“An airport is an incredibly chaotic and busy place, even for someone who is perfectly healthy,” he said, “Take away some of the sensory inputs such as sight, hearing and mobility and couple those with a busy environment and you’ll get a different viewpoint of how someone decides to move through the space to get where they need to go.”

Or decides that they won’t bother to try to make their way through the airport at all.

Harriet Baskas wearing 30 pounds of 'aging suit' apparatus for test walk through SEA airport

(See my At the Airport column on this experience on USA TODAY)

Taking an airport walk as an old person

Harriet Baskas wearing 30 pounds of 'aging suit' apparatus for test walk through SEA airport

Monday’s assignment was another one for the books: go the airport, meet a couple of guys from the Dallas-based Corgan architecture and design firm, let them outfit me in a weighted vest, knee pads, padded shoes and assorted other items that simulate being 30 years older than I am, and take a walk.

The goal? To experience the challenges of moving through a busy, crowded airport without the pep, eyesight and navigational fearlessness of a much younger person.

I’m writing up the details of this educational and exhausting day for tomorrow’s At the Airport column on USA TODAY, but here’s a pic of me trying to get a suitcase up and over the lip of a bag claim carousel.

No laughing please…

Baskas had a tough time trying to lift a suitcase over the lip of the bag claim carousel while wearing an  'aging' suit

LAX ups its curbside appeal

LAX Susan Goldman - pink lightband

Photo/Los Angeles World Airports, Susan Goldman

Another phase of the major upgrade program is underway at Los Angeles International Airport.

This one focuses on curbside appeal and includes modern LED street lighting, custom-made art deco LED light poles and a programmable LED light band running the length of the Central Terminal.

LAX tells us the light band is over one mile long, is attached to the edge of the Upper/Departures Level roadway and is made up of 690 eight-foot-long individual light boxes interconnected and controlled by a single theater control system.

Looks great!