Jet Set: 8 Modern Airport Designs

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Flying—as 3.55 million Americans are expected to do this Thanksgiving weekend, according to projections by AAA—can be an unpleasant slog. But it doesn't have to be. Here are eight airports whose modern design can take the edge off when it comes to holiday travel.

Barajas Airport, Madrid Photo  of Jet Set: 8 Modern Airport Designs modern home

Richard Rogers’s Terminal 4 at Madrid’s Barajas Airport is structurally familiar, but it is executed with a refreshing warmth and flair. There is nothing revolutionary in the terminal’s effective use of wood or in its vibrant, Almodóvaresque color scheme, but in the context of an airport it feels decidedly new. Here, the intent is to ease the transition from the air to the actual place.

An exterior view of Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport near London, designed by Luis Vidal + Architects, which opened in June 2014. The $4.15 billion terminal is expected to handle 20 million passengers a year. Photo  of Jet Set: 8 Modern Airport Designs modern home

An exterior view of Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport near London, designed by Luis Vidal + Architects, which opened in June 2014. The $4.15 billion terminal is expected to handle 20 million passengers a year.

Photo  of Jet Set: 8 Modern Airport Designs modern home

Splashier airports attract aerial photographers in droves, but Singapore's Changi Airport makes no such grand architectural statement. Instead, it woos the common traveler who may be stuck here for a few hours. It is not a hermetically sealed purgatory, thanks to a straightforward design that incorporates open-air spaces, including rooftop terraces and an outdoor swimming pool. Its atrium-like terminals are lush with indoor tropical gardens that exhibit botanical thoughtfulness. Ultimately, the vines, tasteful wood trim, and warm tones help offset the coldness commonly found in international hubs. A 24-hour cinema, spa, showers, children’s play areas, and free Internet service provide the means to kill time or freshen up before the next leg of your trip.

Ben Gurion International Airport, Tel Aviv, by Moshe Safdie & Associates Architects. Photo  of Jet Set: 8 Modern Airport Designs modern home

Ben Gurion International Airport, Tel Aviv, by Moshe Safdie & Associates Architects.

San Francisco International, exterior Photo  of Jet Set: 8 Modern Airport Designs modern home

San Francisco International Airport makes a big impression on those approaching by car or aboard the airport’s nifty AirTrains. The terminal elevates expectations with its sweeping, winglike roof and custom lettering oozing cosmopolitan style. The feeling doesn’t dissipate indoors, either. The concourse is a light and airy space—– if a bit oversized for current traffic levels—–that hums quietly and instills confidence and calm in the traveler. Waylaid travelers can busy themselves with an aquarium, an aviation museum, thoughtful art and culture exhibits, spa treatments, quality restaurants, and wireless Internet.

Incheon International, Seoul Photo  of Jet Set: 8 Modern Airport Designs modern home

The main passenger terminal of Incheon International Airport near Seoul, South Korea, is an amorphous beauty resembling a metallic jellyfish from outer space.

Terminal 3, Beijing Photo  of Jet Set: 8 Modern Airport Designs modern home

Beijing’s striking Terminal 3 projects intergalactic confidence, particularly when viewed from the air at night.

TWA Terminal, JFK Airport, New York CIty Photo  of Jet Set: 8 Modern Airport Designs modern home

Eero Saarinen’s luxurious TWA terminal at JFK Airport in New York City perfectly embodies midcentury dynamism. Its graceful roof reaches outward like the stretched wings of a gliding bird. Inside, its sweeping, curved lines, shafts of light, and free-flowing spaces are all carefully designed not just to suggest fluid movement but to churn foot traffic in and out. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport, recently issued a request for proposals to convert the terminal into a hotel.

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