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Revisiting “The Expanding Airport”


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“The Expanding Airport” is a proposal for the Dulles airport in  Washington D.C. designed by Eero Saarinen in 1958. It’s a non-default design aiming to minimize the walking distance in the airport and to provide simple navigation by replacing the boarding area with mobile lounges. Unfortunately, the scheme has been proven to be a failure as the number of annual passengers has grown from 1million to 24million in the past 50 years. The original concept of “the expanding airport” no longer exists after a series of expansions took place from the 1980s to the 2010s.

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Similar to many of the speculative proposals in the 60s, “the expanding airport” although a failure in reality, has provoked architectural thinking towards flexibility and mobility. Situated in the current moment of 2021, the project is a contemporary response to “the expanding airport”. Bringing the proposal back to its original intention of compressing the space through incorporating moving parts, the project explores possible ways of navigating the airport terminal through reimagining the thresholds.

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Airport is not just a place for transit, but it is composed of layers of spaces and various programs. Through revisiting the idea of an expandable airport, the project investigates the design paradigm shift in the post-covid era and challenges the existing airport typology. While taking into account the new health and safety protocols, the project highlights the possible spatial shifts within a larger post-digital context. The final outcome would be a reproduction of Charles and Ray Eames’ animation of “The Expanding Airport (1958)” learning from its representation technique and graphic style.
Faculty Advisor:
Julia McMorrough