KAAN Architecten and Estudio Lamela, in collaboration with ABT and Ineco, with the support of Arnout Meijer Studio, DGMR and Planeground, have designed the new terminal at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. The spatial organization of the new 100,500m2 terminal for approximately 14 million passengers per year, its design and the treatment of its façades, are based on the ability to link with Schiphol Plaza, the train station and potential future expansions. This is achieved through architectural clarity, spatial openness, and details such as overhangs. The new terminal’s architectural quality is to be found in its layers of opposites: it is a practically organised and user-friendly place yet also offers a grand, atmospheric and light-filled space, where the everyday and the extraordinary merge.
The inspiration behind the design is Schiphol itself and the ethos that has shaped the airport over the past 50 years: functionality, user overview and attention to detail, all well-integrated in an atmosphere of calmness, distinction and practicality. The essence of Schiphol’s DNA, space, light and wide open views have been given priority over architectural form.
The most inspiring architectural and planning DNA is the 1975 Departures Hall with interior design by Kho Liang Ie. It is characterised by abundant daylight, simplicity of space and substantial spatiality. Travellers are provided with openness and oversight, while the repetitions that define the space contribute to a calming rhythm. This is the true essence of Schiphol. With this example in mind a new standard, relevant for different times and different conditions, can be expressed.
The traveller experience is central to the design of the new terminal, both in individual and crowd terms. Overviews, ease of movement, natural daylight and a generous sense of space greet not only departing passengers, but arriving passengers too are given views, comfort and a pleasant spatiality. Rather than exiting onto a street somewhere under a flyover, arriving passengers will be streamlined after customs through a spacious hall for baggage reclaim, be treated to natural daylight and a view of the Departures Hall, and be welcomed to the urban outdoors at the Jan Dellaertplein facing Schiphol Plaza and the underground train station.
Upholding the airport’s sobriety and the ‘one terminal’ concept, the design of the new terminal includes transfers free of check-out and check-in and automatic baggage transfers for passengers. It is on account of this concept that Schiphol has become a favoured international hub. Transfer passengers benefit from the shortest possible route to their next point of departure on the airside or enjoy the convenience of shops and waiting areas, while their baggage is automatically fed to the correct airplane.
The ‘one terminal’ concept is reflected in the introduction of the large Plateau in the center of the hall, creating a higher ceiling for the baggage hall and giving the check-in and security control area more privacy. From the raised platform travellers experience the spaciousness of the terminal and the views afforded by the large glass façades, initially of the landside and, higher up, of the airside with its airplanes and extensive views of big skies and the polder landscape. Apart from creating a natural division of users, which helps to avoid unnecessary crowding, the raised Departures floor also creates another advantage. The plateau makes a dual-level intersection possible, so that both departing and arriving passengers can enjoy a scenic route through the terminal.
The new building’s structure will be only minimally seen and appears as the most logical of bones. Not a single column will block the space. The façade columns and certain functional areas in the building will bear the load of the roof. Its openness will facilitate any future changes, which speaks of its architectural sustainability. Both the means and the results are essential elements, for they make the model future-proof: any future developments can easily be absorbed by the infinitely extendable module.
The terminal’s ambiance, something that has a positive effect on people’s experience of the place, is largely determined by the light. The ceiling and roof of the high, central section is a veritable crown of light, spanning 180 x 150 meters and providing travellers with access to local light, day and night. It is a latticework of squares topped by glass panels and supported by man-sized box girders that gradually change shape in the transition from wall to ceiling, creating openings that appear equally square.
Travellers can look out to the sky as though peering through an ultra-thin membrane. Tried and tested technical facilities inside the casings of the ceiling provide opportunities to vary the colour, nuance and optical effects of the light. The glazed frontage and the light-infused ceiling underscore the typically Dutch character of the terminal. And they embody the low horizons and big cloud-filled skies of those Dutch Golden Age paintings.
Structural modularity and a repetitive rhythm in the façades and roof will serve the overall serenity and unity of the new terminal, while also providing excellent building blocks for any future extension. An integrity and timeless quality define this new link in the chain of Schiphol’s evolutionary development, and yet the design achieved is also distinctive and expressive.
KAAN Architecten is a Rotterdam based architectural firm operating in a global context and merging practical and academic expertise within the fields of architecture, urbanism and research on the built environment. The studio, led by Kees Kaan, Vincent Panhuysen and Dikkie Scipio, consists of an international team of architects, landscape architects, urban planners, engineers and graphic designers. KAAN Architecten believes in cross-pollination between projects and disciplines as a tool to fostering a critical debate within the studio. Estudio Lamela is one of the largest Spanish architectural firms, offering design services for transportation facilities, sports complexes, housing, hospitality, offices, retail and urban projects. As a pioneer in multidisciplinary and teamwork, the company uses the most advanced technologies and techniques, its prime concern being the efficient use of energy and other environmental issues.
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