A triumph of light,
air and ceramics
C. F. Jones & D. Sandison
Brisbane airport, Australia’s third busiest after Sydney and Melbourne, has undergone a major expansion project led by the Australian practice BVN Architecture.
The firm Bligh Voller Nield, led by Chris Clarke at head of planning and architectural design, was commissioned to carry through the entire Brisbane International Airport Terminal expansion project with the brief of upgrading the infrastructure to cope with an estimated 3,000 passengers per hour in the periods of highest traffic in 2012 and to allow for a further expansion in 2023.
Changes to passenger processing systems introduced subsequent to the airport’s construction as well as stricter security procedures made it necessary to carry through an overall reorganisation of the existing terminal, originally designed by Bligh Voller in 1995. Besides expanding and reorganising the existing terminal’s internal layout, the programme also focused on a number of strategic environmental criteria: collecting rainwater for use in toilets and irrigation; selection of drought-resistant plants for landscaping; generous use of interior natural light; where possible, appraisal and selection of eco-friendly materials.
With a view to ensuring seamless continuity between the old and the new, the expansion project sought to emulate the form and external appearance of the existing terminal while meeting the client’s request to maintain an atmosphere that would be „informal, friendly and clearly inspired by the Queensland landscape“. With this in mind, the project opted for natural lighting, a high degree of transparency, simple and minimalist details, and the use of natural materials and a choice of colours for the furnishings inspired by the landscape.
The concourse enlargement follows a different design concept to the terminal, based more on the idea of processing than destination. Rather than opting for a mundane rational grid layout, the architects chose a more dynamic seating arrangement, inspired by the idea of a meandering river.
The natural lighting in the concourse is also enhanced by a narrow 90 metre long skylight where an artwork has been installed. This installation, a lightweight, perforated structure, extends in a rotational direction interrupting the vertical influx of daylight. This creates a play of shadows on the walls and floors that elegantly echoes passengers‘ movements from one part of the concourse to another.
The Italian company Casalgrande Padana supplied the materials for the interior floor coverings of the spacious central concourse, the transit and distribution zones, the waiting and catering areas, and the functional and service spaces.
The colours for the surface coverings were chosen in continuity with the design of the interiors to ensure maximum refraction of natural light. The dominant texture is inspired by natural stone with a preference for Granitogres and Pietre Native collections, used in particular in the connecting spaces and the busiest public areas.