Princeton University School of Architecture
Advisors: Lindy Roy, Elizabeth Diller, David Allin (TA)
This project situates itself in the extraterritorial zone that connects one city to another but is a part of neither.
The influx of potential travelers resulting from the rise of the middle-classes in India and China presents an opportunity to rethink the traveling subject and consequently the architectures of air travel. In contrast to the current paradigm which normalizes the experience of travel to that of the shopping mall and food court and which is indifferent to the reality and extremes of flight, this thesis proposes a redefinition of the gate and concourse to one that embraces the strangeness, perversity and sublimity inherent to these spaces as the primary driver of an architectural response.
Unlike conventional overland border crossings, the border at international airports depends on the buffer of a liminal and continuous extraterritorial zone. This space begins and ends with a property line that is unique in that it exists at the architectural scale as an interiorized threshold that delimits locality against exception.
This project exploits the topological and architectural potential of these border conditions and rethinks the conventional distinctions in the thresholds between local and the global, land and air, architecture and machine. Rather than an intervention at the scale of a full-scale airport, this thesis argues that we cannot talk about one airport without talking about other airports.
Thus the architectural proposition takes the form of a series of contextually-specific appendages to existing terminals. What is presented is a cross-section of three of these appendages traversed through a specific and iconic route which latches onto the existing infrastructure that connects Chicago—city of the twentieth century—to Beijing—city of the twenty-first—with a transit point at Frankfurt am Main.
At ORD, an appendage to Terminal 5 is added in the form of a new concourse. In addition, existing concourses are augmented in a such a way that the aircraft docks in the direction of movement (much like a train station) instead of perpendicular to the terminal. The sidelong docking configuration is two-fold. Aircraft are positioned nine meters above their neighbors allowing their wings to overlap. While the ‘wing-wall’ allows for a tighter relationship between architecture and machine, the overlap allows for denser packing. The distance gained parallel to the concourse is reallocated to a ramp structure in the apron perpendicular to the concourse.
The extension to FRA deploys the aircraft ramp in order to increase capacity but in this case the appendage is reversed to create a negative space in the terminal allowing the aircraft to enter the building. The endlessly extruded curved roof section terminal type of the 90s and 00s had claims towards an aerodynamism that matched the aircraft that docked onto it. However, this supposed aerodynamic quality is undercut by the ad-hoc plumbing of the jetway which serves as the threshold between architecture and machine. The reversed appendage eliminates the jetway completely by creating a topological space of limbo inside a terminal used largely for passengers in transit awaiting onward flights. The topological condition of the interior envelope becomes equivalent to the jurisdictional boundary between transit space and locality.
PEK’s Terminal 3 as it stands today already meets the massive influx of air travelers that will only increase this century. With the question of increased capacity essentially solved, the project here leverages the departure gate as a site for pure spectacle. The appendage at pek has traits common to both ord and fra. Like ord, a single surface wing-wall is deployed and like fra, it is deployed internal to the existing structure. The aircraft is allowed to pick up and deplane passengers in its progress right through the concourse.
Special thanks to Laura Diamond for her thoughtful advice and to Adrian Heid for his collaboration in model fabrication.