About GenslerOnCities

What makes cities tick? GenslerOnCities explores the planning, design, and the potential futures of urban landscapes.

Search GenslerOn
Cities Topics
Connect with Us
« Encouraging Open Space Development | Main | Who Will Champion Open Spaces? »

Art + Design at the Airport

Gensler airports

In a travel era best known for security pat-downs and crowded terminals, how can you infuse some fun into the passenger experience? The answer: Design an airport at which passengers can relax.

When Gensler began renovating San Francisco International Airport Terminal 2 (SFO T2), the design team strove to reflect the renowned culture and beautiful aesthetic of the Bay Area. To do this, we incorporated artworks into the design. SFO is the only U.S. airport with an accredited museum program, so it was the perfect space to utilize art to enhance the passenger experience.

A hanging sculpture for Recompose

Gensler airports

Just beyond security, in an area we call Recompose, is a hanging sculpture by Janet Echelman called ‘Every Beating Second. ’Echelman’s piece interacts with the form and the position of the terminal skylights, which stream natural light into the space. Immediately beneath the piece, we installed expansive seating. Unlike post-security areas in most airports that leave passengers scrambling for a metal bench or folding table, Recompose will be a place where passengers can sit down in peace, change their point of view, and experience the space and the artwork as they prepare for their flights.

Artwork facilitates play

Gensler airports

Traveling with children can be an experience feared by parents and other travelers alike. And most airports only make matters worse by failing to provide well-designed children’s play areas. This is not case at T2. We planned two play areas during the design phase and integrated works of art into the spaces.

In the active play area, artist Charles Sowers’ ‘Butterfly Wall,’ provides an interactive mechanical butterfly system for children to play with. The piece uses beautiful trapezoidal glass that changes color very quickly, going from hot pink to vibrant blue to bright green. The changing colors will not only capture the attention of kids in the play area but also intrigue passersby. It’s an engaging piece for travelers of all ages that is accompanied by other fun design elements, including large SFO letters embedded in the floor to be climbed upon, rocked, and crawled through.

Gensler airports

The second play area features art by Walter Kitundu, whose point of view is very local to the Bay Area. Featuring photography that captures birds in urban settings, Kitundu’s installation also features beautiful millwork benches in the form of a bird’s wing that give off audible bird songs when struck with mallets. The combination offers children a place to play while parents can peruse photos of wildlife in the bay area wildlife.

A welcoming Arrival Area

Gensler airports

As Gensler founder Art Gensler mentioned in a recent interview, airports often neglect to create a memorable experience for inbound travelers. T2 avoids this problem by providing a “Meet and Greet” area designed to welcome passengers as they arrive in the Bay Area. Our designers installed the Marc Adams Tapestries here to complement our vision for this section of T2.

These three 17’ x 11’ tapestries depict garden imagery from local San Francisco sites. Featured above the banquette seating, where their color, imagery and texture exude the warmth we sought, the tapestries create a welcoming environment. To maximize their effect, we designed the Arrivals Lounge’s material finishes and color palette around these tapestries, further adding to the lively, verdantimagery.

Creating a memorable passenger experience

We want every passenger who passes through T2 to feel they were incredibly cared for as they moved through this public space. It is a terminal that is truly different. SFO has such a thoughtful approach to the impact that art can have on travelers, and we strove to uphold this legacy through our design.

Jeff Henry is a Principal and Design Director for Retail Design and Store Planning Studio at Gensler’s San Francisco office. Jeff’s conceptual approach to design is enhanced by his attention to detail. His ability to provide creative solutions to complex design problems has made him a valued leader of many Gensler project teams. Contact him at jeff_henry@gensler.com.

Reader Comments (1)

Some people are really creative geniuses and they sure know how to add appeal to things.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.