If you are like us and travel a lot you see the inside of a bunch of airports. I figure that I’ve flown through about 90; it is hard to keep track. For many frequent travelers seeing the inside an airport a negative. To me seeing being inside the new generation of modern airports is a pleasure. Strange as it may sound, I’d actually travel just to explore the architecture of the departure halls of modern international airports.
Each airport has a surprise. In San Francisco, the rotating museum displays are worth a visit on their own. Toronto has “Tilted Spheres,” a cool art installation with interesting acoustics by Richard Serra. Frankfurt has vanishing point tunnels between the terminals, a large distinctly old-school mechanical departure board, and stylish Lufthansa gates. Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok has an infrequently visited observation deck with a birds eye view of the cavernous departure hall. Bilboa’s airport also has an observation area that lets passengers get a good view of the curving, architecturally interesting structure.
Airports also have their particularly distinctive food choices. Often the most unique options are hidden amongst the usual international offerings. Hunt for the blue fin tuna in Tokyo’s Narita, Chicago-style dogs in O’Hare, beer and pretzels in Frankfurt (Not hard to find!), ceviche and Pisco Sours in Lima Peru, or the pinxtos in Bilboa.
Whether it is Hong Kong, Bangkok, Bilboa, or San Francisco, all large airy airports have one thing in common, the acoustics. There’s something about the large cavernous space of airport departure halls that gives a slightly muffled metallic resonating sound that permeates the air. It’s not the same sound as large sports arenas or shopping malls. There’s something unique about airports this way. For me the distinctive airport sound is comforting. Maybe I like the sound because international airports are oases of similarity. They are all set up with a common structure; they are always familiar.
In the end the sound and the open airy space mean one thing; I am traveling. Perhaps this is what I connect to. Perhaps that’s why the airports have such a strong appeal.
(All pictures from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.)