Modern and Bold Designs of Airports in India

Ar Apurva Bose Dutta
Airports in India

Designing an airport is a complex task - while symbolically the designs need to embody the city's and country's identity by acting as the first and last handshake; the key factors of the sensitive nature and security concerns of airports also have to painstakingly taken in consideration in the designs. In recent times with terror attacks hounding the country, Airport designing has become all the more critical and vital.

Airport designing for any city also leads to the enhancement and development of the city, what with metro links/stations and retail centres planned around them. Sites for such projects have to bear in mind the proximity to existing highways, to possess a location away from the hub of the city due to security factors and the availability of such a huge expanse of land. With the escalating air traffic in India, a number of airports are looking to expand or set up new terminals to accommodate the growing number of passengers. A look at the new modern and bold forms of airports with imposing roof structures and you realise that India's coming of age.

Delhi based Architect Charanjit S Shah apart from adorning the very famous hat of being the creator of 'The Indian Time Savers Standard' has been credited with highly acclaimed architectural projects practiced under his 41 years old firm Creative Group. The firm takes a special interest in green initiatives in architecture and works on diverse projects related to Architecture, Planning, Urban Design, Structural Design, Interiors, Project Management & Valuation. The firm has won a lot of design competitions, four of them being major airports of India - Chennai, Goa, Vadodara and Raipur. Prof Shah, a widely travelled architect while admitting that Modern Airport Designs in India imitate the western world designs, cites his favourite approach to airport designing as 'transparency and a simplistic approach for proper functionality of the building'.

Creative Group collaborates with New York based Frederic Schwartz & Associates as the global partner for all their Joint venture projects and the Chennai and Vadodara airport projects have been the outcome of their collaborations along with Gensler - a global architecture, design, planning and consulting firm.

On airport designing Prof Shah adds, "Besides aesthetics, it is thefunctionality of the building which is very important and involves the proper segregation of visitors, passengers and the baggage system. As one has to stay for a longer period in hold areas, queuing immigration and check in areas, proper care is desired for providing good visual effect within the building. Minimizing heat gain and maximizing day light through passive strategies of good planning should be emphasized while designing Airport Terminal Buildings."

On design constraints he mentions the redevelopment of such airports on the existing premises and the limitation of site areas available on city side developments as challenges. Lighting forms an important part of such projects as besides the day factor, it is the night illumination which is of utmost importance too. In these following airports, the architect has used a combination of local and international light fixtures which besides optimizing the count of the fixtures also increase the illumination outputs. "Lighting typology and patterns have been carefully selected to define different public spaces without any physical segregation. Even though it is a wide known fact that the terminals by virtue oftheir nature are energy guzzlers, but with due diligence the lighting power load has been kept to 1W/sqft in most of the areas," informs Architect Shah. This has been done by using CFL's andT5 in all the areas and metal halides in combination with CFL's for high ceiling areas.

While designing airports, one has to understand that the design needs to be in regional as well as global context- a challenging combination to conceive and execute. The mantra definitely is to think globally and to act locally. Discourses still exist to which Prof Shah explains, "In today's global context and keeping in the overall international trend of Airport Planning, modern large span steel structures have overshadowed the ethnic/ heritage buildings. Heritage does play a vital role and goes with the overall vocabulary of the city development but technological advancement has overpowered it. Contemporary designs are well suited and are in line with public's aspirations." Admirably, in all the airports that Creative Group are designing, while elements have been taken out of the regional character of the cities, the execution and technology adapted produce the outcome fitting for the global context.

Chennai Airport

No doubt, Chennai is the most enthusiastic city in India when it comes to practicing green architecture. In the same line, the Chennai airport is going to be the first green airport in the world. The brief of the design in Phase 1 included a domestic terminal, extension of the existing international terminal and associated departure flyover. Phase 2 will include face-lifting of existing terminals, multilevel car park, metro stations and city side development.

Chennai domestic terminal
ARIAL VIEW of Chennai domestic terminal

A 1700sqm central green spine comprising two green courtyards acts as the fulcrum around which the H shaped domestic terminal building evolves. Divided into two halves, the first half of the building is into the landside while the other half is into airside programmed operations related spaces (connected with a central security checkpoint for departure), and has two elliptical glass tubes on either side of the building for arriving passengers (which will connect the landside with the airside operations though the Central Courtyard).

The beautiful landscaping of the courtyards with tall palm groves, colourful indigenous plantings, shallow pools and vertical garden infuses freshness into the building inducing an exterior-interior dialogue. The airport is the first in the world to have gardens visible throughout the terminals. The terminal has a dramatic hovering wing like roof in tubular steel truss (37m high and 30m wide) with a cantilever of 24m - the largest in any airport building previously. The 260m long column free structure revelling in the glass curtain walls and skylights add to the spaciousness. A precast elevated departure flyover is supported on 76 'V' columns and visually demarcates the departure lounge on the upper level from the arrival lounge on the lower level.

This sustainable green airport called for an extensive research of materials. The parking area is totally devoid of hard surface which has 95% of water runoff and no percolation. Use of Green pavers (Polypropylene Pavers) with over 90% porosity recharges the ground water that is the cause of immense concern, with water table dropping every year. Bricks have been replaced with AAC blocks (Aerated Autoclaved Concrete Blocks) which ensure thermal insulation. Sustainability aspects further include restoration of the native landscape, passive energy conservation strategies, material selection, onsite storm water detention, on site waste water treatment and dispersal systems. A parking garage with a green roof will create what the designers describe as a "green gate" to the terminal.

Amongst other unique features are a vertical garden (a stainless steel structure lattice providing support for hanging plantings with vibrantly coloured lush vegetation) which will be visible in the inner green spine while passing through the arrival glass tube.

Goa Airport

The Creative Group was awarded the Goa Integrated Terminal Building at Dabolim which they like to term as 'The Wave' that thematically denotes the 'aspirations of a nation which is quickly becoming a technological and economic giant in the global platform'. Simultaneously, it represents the freedom that Goa is basking in, in being a global tourist hub. 'The Wave' is also emblematic of ecstasy - the ecstasy which no individual visiting Goa can miss. Eventually, it represents the city known for its sea and beaches and also symbolises the site location that is surrounded by sea on one side.

With Goa being a favourite tourist hub, the challenge was to have an airport building catering to various needs including chartered and civil flights, which was overcome by making the terminal flexible in terms of integration of both international and domestic passengers.

Airports in India

The form has been derived from a circle where the terminal forms a semi-circle resting on ground with a half arch emerging from one end of the semi-circle. With a bold, sleek, transparent and iconic form, the design of the airport successfully captures the vibrancy of the Goan spirit. Steel portal frames constituting the basic building envelope (leading to column free interior spaces) convey a bold look. The long curved glass facades (of a specially made double glass unit providing thermal and sound insulation with a protective blue tinge film reflecting the water proximity) and a free flowing form of solid roof (with skylights) resembling a wave make the structure iconic. A large overhang covering the kerb achieves natural light through the sun breaking louvers.

The vibrant interiors include specially designed types of glasses, back lit double height feature walls near the escalators and staircase (aiding in directing the vertical flow of passengers), texture granite stone flooring, wall hangings and sculptures (representing the Goan flavour) and wall cladding of Compact Laminated panels (a recyclable green material).

To fight the limited scope of expansion, the terminal has been designed to accommodate maximum built up area for limited ground coverage by introducing more floor slabs in the same volume, making it economically more efficient. Also through the planning of service equipment in the basement and their cooling towers and AHU's on the open-to-sky mezzanine, saving of space has been done on the main floors. The multi-level parking has been accommodated in the basement.

Vadodara Airport

A new integrated terminal building has been conceived to aid the handling of passengers and introduce international services with a challenge posed of bringing art into the functionality of the terminal building.

Vadodara having been developed as an industrial hub with the development of automobile, engineering, chemical and other industries, its airport needed to be an ultra modern structure. The airport responds with a single arching, sweeping roof sheltering the North and South sides through 18 m overhangs while wrapping around the east and west side. The archway corresponding to an aerodynamic roof with circular skylights brings in much light apart from that received through the curtain walls on the North and South facades. From a distance, the building is visually nothing short of an 'aerodynamic volume' rising above the landscape. The RCC framed structure of the Terminal Building has steel tubular trusses covered with self-supported concealed Galvanized Metal Sheeting standing-seam double skin roofing systems with acoustical treatment and thermal insulation to meet as close to GRIHA/ECBC requirements on noise and echo reduction.

Vadodara Airport
View of the Vadodara Airport

The terminal sticks to its green features with ample natural ventilation, a careful implementation of materials in compliance with the ECBC code (AAC blocks, flat seam metal panels concealing the east-west facades, interior finishes of GFRC panels etc).

The sub surface car parking for 250 cars enjoys complete view of the terminal from the roadway system. On one hand while the airside and landscape spaces are clearly demarcated, the terminal is connected visually around the central zone in the absence of any partitions. Proper planning has been made to avoid mingling of the domestic and international travellers.

Dates of Commencement of Construction
Chennai - Aug 2008
Goa - May 2010
Vadodara - May 2011
Raipur - Sep 2008
Date of Completion
Chennai - Dec 2011 (domestic terminal); Sep 2012
(International and City Side development)
Goa - May 2012
Vadodara - Jan 2013
Raipur - March 2012
Built Up Areas
Chennai - 72.700sqm (Domestic)
64.300sqm (International)
104.000sqm (Multi Level Car Parking)
Goa - 77,000sqm
Vadodara - 18,000sqm
Raipur - 20,000sqm
Chennai - 2015 crores
Goa - 330 crores
Vadodara - 115 crores
Raipur - 129 crores

Raipur Airport

The emphasis in this integrated passenger terminal for Raipur was not only on the airport's iconic form, but also in the space modulated to conform to the needs of the passengers to make them most comfortable.

An indigenous design with a 3-Dimensional curvilinear roof consisting of 12 trusses (supported by steel 'tree columns' with flaring arms) with skylights brings about a floating effect. The organic form has a sliced dome at the centre (that maximises the daylight and emits light at night) and multiple wings elevating the roof profile. The form is akin to a bird set to take off with its wing raised high while the rear side (airside) design is inspired from a spaceship. Looking at such structures one wants to thank technology for the advancement it has got in today's designs. Giving it full credit Architect Shah avers that being an important tool for all advancement and innovations, with adequate know-how and proper understanding oflatest technology, the variety of usages can be adopted to achieve the best of results in terms of properutilization of materials.

The aesthetics of the interiors have been intelligently dealt with. Circular stainless steel columns in the volumetric arrival and departure lounges have props in the upper end that serve as architectural and structural elements of expression. Care has been taken to combine services with the aesthetic elements of the building. For example, these columns serve in integrating the vertical AHU system. Indoor landscape courtyards and water bodies provide relief while the strategic planning of mounds and contours camouflage the ongoing traffic movement.

Airports in India

With building services aptly planned in the underground trenches, the building has been made 'Green' by incorporating elements of energy conservation, waste water and resource management. Dwelling further on green aspects, Architect Shah adds, "Materials of the building envelope, heat loads, indoor air quality, air conditioning equipment, insulation materials, its wrappings and duct leakage rates are all in conformity with the recommendations of ASHRAE / IES STANDARD 90.1/IECC to minimize the energy demand of the building. All joints in the building, door and window frames, which are potential source of air leakage, have been sealed and the systems have been aimed for a minimum of 25% better efficiency than that called for in ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1."

NBM&CW December 2011

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