FLEXIBLE DESIGN AVIATION SOLUTIONS
JAMES BERRY, DIRECTOR OF ARCHITECT WOODS BAGOT, CONSIDERS WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
HOW DO YOU THINK AIR TRAVEL WILL CHANGE IN THE FUTURE?
A key difference will be the number and the diversity of
passengers. Anybody who travels can see that there are already many more people flying, and that those passengers come from a much broader socio-economic range than ever before. That trend is expected to continue – IATA [the International Air Transport Association] predicts that by 2050 the number of people travelling by air will have risen from 2.8 billion to 16 billion per year. Will they feel like passengers, like customers – or like guests? We’re working to define the next-generation airport “guest experience” across the globe. Billions will have to be spent on additional infrastructure, and the only way we’ll be able to meet the demand is by making airport facilities more cost-effective and flexible.
HOW IS THE DESIGN OF AIRPORTS CHANGING? We’re trying to make airports as flexible as possible, both in
terms of future expansion and in how they operate in the future. Major airports are accelerating in terms of size and complexity, but we need to break them down into more human-sized facilities, for good economic, operational and passenger reasons. Check-in will largely disappear, as everyone checks in online or on their phones. The only thing they will have to do is get rid of their bags, and that’s likely to be automated. That’s already widespread in Australia, and the new Heathrow Terminal 2 will have it too. IATA has several initiatives to dramatically improve the security screening process and make it more efficient. You might just be scanned as you walk through a room, with no need to take anything off.
There’s also been massive, you could say disproportionate, growth in lounge facilities for what airlines call “CIPs”, or commercially important passengers. Low-cost airlines have been fantastic in terms of opening up the market, but there’s still a drive to offer a fantastic service to premium passengers, because that’s where airlines make a profit.
WHAT WILL THE AIRPORT OF THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE? There will be much better integration of transport systems –
there’s a realisation that what airports are about is connecting people arriving via one means of transport with another. External spaces around terminal buildings are also more important. In years past, no one went outside the airport, but now we’re trying to provide that amenity and a sense of space landside. Apart from the realisation that airports are a valuable real estate asset, places need to have a sense of identity and energy that they didn’t before. At the other end of the scale, there will also be myriad smaller regional airports, which might be incredibly simple, with just a runway, a security screening area and somewhere to get a cup of tea.
STRESS OUT OF TRAVELLING
WOULD TAKE A LOT OF THE GOOGLE GLASSES HOW FAR AHEAD DO YOU LOOK?
It’s great fun looking forward, but it’s also instructive to look back – you don’t have to go back very far to see how much has changed. When people pictured the future in the sixties and seventies, it was like Star Trek, with mobile phones, transporters and digital scanners. That’s definitely not all happened, but we all do now have mobile phones, and you could almost believe it will happen.
New technology, in terms of the way that people receive information, will change the way we interact with facilities, particularly the interchanges between one mode of transport and another. If you were wearing Google glasses, they could translate signage and tell you where to go. If you’re not where you should be, they could tell you to leave duty free and go to the gate. When you arrive, they’d tell you which bus to get on. It would take a lot of the stress out of travelling.
WON’T COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY MEAN WE DON’T NEED TO FLY AS MUCH?
People have been saying that for years. Technology can allow us
to communicate – I’m in Perth and I’m speaking to you on the phone on the other side of the world, for example – and to go remotely to beautiful parts of the world. But when it comes to designing a place or making things, you do have to be there. When it comes to business, people will still need and want to travel.
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