Monday, March 2, 2009

The reason why

The interesting thing about large airports is that they are so illogical. You would think that an airport should have a strictly logical structure that allows him to do his job in a very efficient way: to fill planes with people. The form should follow the very simple function. But instead, you will find complicated systems of stairs, spaces and hallways, an enourmous overcomplexity. Try to understand what you are actually doing, in a geographical sense, if you change terminals in FRA, and you will fail. Nobody can convince me that these large structures are the most rational and efficient way to fulfill the purpose of an airport. Here, form and function seem to be divorced from each other.

I am wondering how to explain this, in an evolutionary sense. For comparison, the topography of very big train stations are usually quite easy to understand. Not so much with an airport. The requirements for an airport probably changed too quickly over the past 50 years to allow for developing the optimum solution. Instead, airports became a complex mess of dirty workarounds and stopgaps. They became the most illustrative example for the shortsightedness of our rapidly evolving world.

My brain works very much like an airport. When I encounter a problem, I usually think in two steps: 1) Ok, it would be nice to have a radically new and elegant solution. So maybe we should tear everything down and start from scratch. 2) But it's already 11pm and I still have to do laundry. Maybe I can simply use my old solution, bend it a little, and bring it into a new shape with duct tape. And although I rarely see any duct tape in airports, they are essentially built exclusively with metaphorical duct tape.

At this point, there are probably very few people who know the topography of the large airports inside out. There are very few airport natives who can find the best way from A to B without map and compass and asking for directives. That's the goal of airport hiking - to understand and map the topography of airports. To become the masters of irrational structures and illogical spaces. To survive and thrive in an inhumane environment. We are to become the natives of the airports.

No comments:

Post a Comment