On wings of porcelain
In the early days of aviation, aeroplanes were magnificent flying machines that inspired dreams and fired the imagination. But in today’s age of mass transportation, following the „low-cost“ revolution, they have all but lost their original appeal, essentially becoming airborne buses where a comfortable seat is more important than the evocative power of their image. Airports on the other hand have undergone the opposite trend. The original grass airfields equipped with little more than a windsock have been transformed into theatres for the liturgy of flight. Functional, rational and hypertechnological places by nature, they are increasingly also becoming iconic architectural objects commissioned from leading names in world architecture. This is a process that has been repeated the world over on many different scales, whether metropolises with millions of inhabitants or smaller cities such as Salt Lake City with its population of under 200,000.
The small and relatively young capital of the state of Utah, founded in 1847 by a Mormon community, stands at the feet of the Rocky Mountains and came to international attention when it hosted the winter Olympic Games in 2002. For a number of years now, the local practice AJC Architects has been working in close cooperation with the team from SLCDA (Salt Lake City Department of Airports) on a detailed airport remodelling and expansion programme involving various levels of complexity: from implementation and renovation of the buildings and technical facilities to the redesign of the interiors and services for transiting passengers.
One of the latest works to be completed is the Suspended Bridge connecting Terminal 1 with the car park and car rental areas. This reinforced concrete and steel volume combines a slender structural mesh with an envelope consisting of large glazed surfaces. The play of light and shadows deriving from the volume’s permeability to light helps create a highly dynamic environment.
The floor covering played a key role. The design requirement was to find a lightweight, large-format material that would avoid overburdening the structure while being able to withstand high foot traffic. To fulfil these needs, AJC Architects chose Lea Slimtech ultrathin (3.5 mm thick) porcelain sheets, produced in sizes of up to 3 metres by 1 metre. The Basaltina and Arenaria finishes, which recreate the effect of natural stone in a range of colours, together with a multiple size installation layout (100×100 cm, 50×100 cm and 50×50 cm), give the surfaces an outstanding finish with fields of colour that highlight and enhance the transit areas.