Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
CHHATRAPATI SHIVAJI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, TERMINAL 2 in Mumbai, India by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
February 28th, 2014 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
Ten years ago, Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport welcomed six million passengers per year through its gates; today it serves nearly five times that number. With the city’s emergence as India’s financial capital and the country’s rapidly expanding and economically mobile middle class, the existing airport infrastructure proved unable to support the growing volume of domestic and global traffic, resulting in frequent delays. By orchestrating the complex web of passengers and planes into a design that feels intuitive and responds to the region’s rocketing growth, the new Terminal 2 asserts the airport’s place as a preeminent gateway to India.
Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport Terminal 2 adds 4.4 million square feet of new space to accommodate 40 million passengers per year, operating 24 hours a day. The terminal combines international and domestic passenger services under one roof, optimizing terminal operations and reducing passenger walking distances.
Inspired by the form of traditional Indian pavilions, the new four-story terminal stacks a grand “headhouse,” or central processing podium, on top of highly adaptable and modular concourses below. Rather than compartmentalizing terminal functions, all concourses radiate outwards from a central processing core and are therefore easily reconfigured to “swing” between serving domestic flights or international flights.
But just as the terminal celebrates a new global, high-tech identity for Mumbai, the structure is imbued with responses to the local setting, history, and culture. Gracious curbside drop-off zones designed for large parties of accompanying well-wishers accommodate traditional Indian arrival and departure ceremonies. Regional patterns and textures are subtly integrated into the terminal’s architecture at all scales. From the articulated coffered treatment on the headhouse columns and roof surfaces to the intricate jali window screens that filter dappled light into the concourses, Terminal 2 demonstrates the potential for a modern airport to view tradition anew.
The prominent location of the airport within the city of Mumbai bestows it with a strong presence within a portion of the city that is experiencing rapid growth and redevelopment. Terminal 2 is a significant part of this renaissance as an infrastructural anchor for the neighborhood, and as a landmark within the surrounding community. By integrating into the existing transportation fabric and by furthering connectivity through the simultaneous development of a new road network to service the airport, the terminal helps knit together the historic heart of Mumbai to the south with the city’s burgeoning peripheries to the east and north. Plans are also in place for the construction of an underground metro station at the terminal’s entrance, providing further connectivity to the growing city.
A Gateway to India
Once inside, travelers enter a warm, light-filled chamber, sheltered underneath a long-span roof supported by an array of multi-story columns. The monumental spaces created beneath the thirty mushrooming columns call to mind the airy pavilions and interior courtyards of traditional regional architecture. Small disks of colorful glass recessed within the canopy’s coffers speckle the hall below with light. The constellation of colors makes reference to the peacock, the national bird of India, and the symbol of the airport.
The check-in hall leads to a retail hub—a common space that allows passengers to shop, eat, and watch planes take off though expansive, floor-to-ceiling windows. Centrally located at the junction of the concourses and the terminal core, these commercial plazas provide a focal point of activity in close proximity to the gates. Within these spaces and throughout the concourses, culturally referential fixtures and details, such as custom chandeliers inspired by the lotus flower and traditional mirror mosaic work created by local artists, ground the traveler to a community and culture beyond the airport. Regional artwork and artifacts are displayed on a central, multi-story Art Wall, illuminated by skylights above. The prevalence of local art and culture, coupled with the use of warm colors and elegant accents, elevates the ambience of terminal beyond the typical, often unimaginative airport experience.
Although the terminal is four stories, interconnecting light slots and multi-story light wells ensure that light penetrates into the lower floors of the building, acting as a constant reminder of the surrounding city and landscape. At dusk, illuminated from within, the terminal glows like a sculpted chandelier.
A Flexible Footprint
This innovative form also allows for the consolidation of important passenger processing, baggage handling, and retail/dining functions at the center of the terminal. On each floor, radiating piers permit the shortest possible walking distances from the center of the terminal to boarding areas, while also maximizing the terminal’s perimeter for aircraft gates.
The terminal’s roof—one of the largest in the world without an expansion joint—ensures further terminal flexibility. The long-span capabilities of the steel truss structure allow for the spacing of the thirty 40-meter columns to be far enough apart to not only give a feeling of openness to the large processing areas below but also to allow for maximum flexibility in the arrangement of ticket counters and other necessary processing facilities.
A Hub of Energy Efficiency
At Terminal 2, modern materials and technologies are used to powerful effect. But while cutting-edge strategies set a new standard for sustainable, modern airport design, the terminal is as much a showpiece of the history and traditions of India and Mumbai as it is an unprecedented structural and technological achievement. Rising from the Mumbai cityscape, Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport celebrates both India’s rich cultural heritage and the country’s increasingly global future.
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