An airport is the modern gateway to a city, or a country. And for some travellers, like those in transit, the airport is often all they get to see of a country. The airport, which facilitates movement of millions of tonnes of goods, and people, forms the traveller’s first impressions.

That is where the importance of an airport’s architecture comes in. “Architecturally, an airport holds significant importance since it has the ability to grant a unique identity to the region where it is situated,” says a GVK Group spokesperson. The Group developed the integrated Terminal 2 at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport and built Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport.

Owing to this, there is no universal blue print of how an airport should look. While it may come across as a typical glass and steel building that can situate itself anywhere in the world, the GVK spokesperson assures that the design philosophy of the Mumbai airport is such that it emanates an Indian flavour. “ The T2 terminal integrates the national bird, the peacock, into its design in several ways,” he adds. The ceiling and pillars of the foyer are designed to look like a peacock’s feathers and even the skylights are peacock-feather shaped.

Of gardens and temples

Internationally, Seoul's Incheon International Airport has looked to Korean architecture for inspiration. Likewise, Changi Airport, has redeveloped its Terminal 1 to reflect Singapore’s reputation as the ‘Garden City;’ and Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport retains parts of the Balinese temple architecture-inspired facade. And the roof at Los Angeles' international airport evokes the Pacific Ocean.

In the case of New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, its design philosophy relied upon adding Indian culture , such as in its choice of art, says GMR group’s chief architect Srilata Ramkumar. Take for instance, the Mudra wall, an installation comprising convex and concave copper plates forming a backdrop to around six-feet high statues of a palm, each forming classical dance mudra .

The GMR Group is the developer and operator of Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi and Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad. And each airport operated by GMR follows a specific theme that is inspired by a spice and represented by a colour, she adds.

Then there are some airports where the structure visibly owes its allegiance to a local architectural or design philosophy, such as Kochi’s Nedumbassery International Airport, whose façade looks like a Kerala-style ‘ Tharavad ’ house. The way a structure assimilates local flavour varies from place to place because the needs of each location vary, Ramkumar adds.