With remarkable insistence, airport architecture has, almost ever since the beginnings of aviation, tried to get as close as possible to the always sophisticated industrial world of aeronautics through buildings formally alluding to it but inevitably using the techniques and methods of the construction industry.
Experience has taught us that an airport cannot be compared to an airplane, whether in terms of materials or in terms of form. The perfection and lightness of flying machines have very little in common with the complex functional mechanisms behind airports. Airports belong to the world of things built on land, and not to the sky, and are by definition places of transit.
Yet the world’s greatest airports are not buildings. Megaterminals are factories, conglomerates, complexes, anything but buildings in the true sense of the word. The dimensions of this Sevillian terminal make it possible for it to still be considered a building.
Once we have made this clear, though, it must be admitted that this is an isolated building situated in an open field, its only reference and link to the city being a highway. Hence the importance given to the relationship between terminal and highway. As in some projects by Le Corbusier, the highway penetrates the building and unfolds within it, thereby contributing decisively to the definition of its structure. Here it determines the geometry of the parallel and linear volumes of the terminal. These in turn are responsible for the organization of the floor plan, and finally of the overall architecture.
The insularity of airports is emphasized here by the importance given to the parking area. Conceived as a patio with shades and orange trees alternating with each other, it is a key feature of the complex. The complex extends from here on two levels, arrivals downstairs and departures upstairs. Both levels are protected from the strong Sevillian sun by porticos which make for continuity between the roofs of the parking lot and those of the terminal.
On the upper level, the volumes come in this order: access, concourse, services, corridors, ramps, gates, fingers. On the lower level, the reverse: fingers, ramps, corridors, concourse, services.
The section reveals the special importance given to the large volume containing the concourses - both for departures and for arrivals - to the point that it could be taken to be a separate building, with all the other constructions gravitating towards it as mere subsidiaries. A double line of vaults - lowering onto impressive arches that are held up by columns crowned by special capitals that make such transition possible and play a crucial role in the figurative definition of the concourse - generates a dilated, seemingly infinite space in which the longitudinal faces are clearly drawn.
The immense departure concourse, with the deep-blue color of the vaults as its main feature, is meant to be the point of encounter between sky and land, the place materializing and propitiating transit. The idea is for the space defined by the vaults to act as threshhold to the sky, or in other words, as the new and true ‘gate to Seville.’
As for materials and methods, the idea was to make use of construction systems coherent with the architectural criteria. For example, the choice of typology (two levels with the fingers in a row, as is correct for terminals of this kind) required allowances for future extensions of the floor plan and for possible serialization of the constructional elements. The idea of future serialization led to the use of light prefabricated materials throughout the building.
A vital contributor to the physical appearance of the new terminal is its enclosure of concrete blocks, finished in local sands that help give the building a typically yellowish tone. The roofs also bear much weight in the architecture as a whole, and reflect the logic of its construction more clearly than any other element. Resolved in the traditional way, their custom-glazed tiles are an impressive finishing touch capable of reflecting the altitude of the sun at any given time of day. The deep blue of the vaults and interior surfaces are echoed in the exterior, to prolong a contrast that proves invaluable at latitudes where the sun strikes strongest...
Ministerio de Transportes Spanish Ministry of Transportation.
Luis Moreno Mansilla y Emilio Tuñón, proyecto project; Aurora Fernández, Fernando Iznaola, Vicente Alvarez Morilla (ingeniero aeronáutico aeronautic engineer) y Francisco González Peiró (aparejador technical architect), dirección de obra; Enric Satué (señalética signage); estudio de Moneo y Akaba (mobiliario furniture).
Mariano Moneo (estructura structural); lntecsa (instalaciones mechanical and electrical).
Dragados y Construcciones.
Dida Biggi, Duccio Malagamba, Fernando Alda.