Terminal architecture has the power to make or break the passenger experience. Leading architects tell Tara Craig how the pandemic has affected their plans for the next generation of terminals

The airport terminal started life as a functional space – London Heathrow’s first was a former army tent. Today, it is a place where people wait, shop, eat, drink and even enjoy spa treatments or live entertainment. The terminal has to be many things to many people, and that has been further complicated by the restrictions placed on it by COVID-19 and the heightened emphasis on public health. But how has the pandemic changed the way in which architects approach terminal design?

Gensler’s concept for a new Dulles Airport in Washington DC features circular pods as the gate areas, accessed via an autonomous shuttle or an elevated transit pod

Rethinking the layout

For Ty Osbaugh, aviation leader, principal at Gensler, terminal architecture is all about creating a place “that is flexible and can adapt to future conditions”. According to Osbaugh, the elements required during pandemic conditions – primarily space – were already becoming part of the airport design landscape, driven by mobile technology and remote check-in.

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