From Our Archive
This story was published before Summer 2021, when we launched our new digital experience.

High-Design Airport Terminals

David Lynch Transcendental Meditation Interview


The Deep Dive

A light conversation with David Lynch on Transcendental Meditation, the unified...

The Write Stuff


The Write Stuff

A dip into the world of luxurious fountain pens.

The Perfect Cup

Food and Drink

The Perfect Cup

Terra Kaffe’s espresso machine elevates your morning ritual with the press of a...

Whether located in major metropolises or small rural areas, airports are undergoing decidedly design-focused transformations—21st-century remakes that are ushering in a more aesthetically and environmentally conscious era of air travel.

“Airports built back in the ’70s and ’80s were boxy, utilitarian places that were about as inspired as your average Safeway store—they literally had the same ceiling tiles and lighting,” says Curtis Fentress, principal at leading aviation design firm Fentress Architects. “It’s no wonder that air travel evolved from a glamorous pursuit into an unavoidable trudge.”

Somewhere along the way, however, urban planners got hip to the idea that their airports could function not just as transport hubs, but as beautiful, functional works of art that reflect the energy, vibrancy and culture of the regions they serve. Today terminals in almost every major destination have either completed expansions or are in the process of renovating. The primary goal may be to process the tens (and even hundreds) of millions of passengers expected to move through their gates and corridors in the next decade or so, but planners are also on a mission to leave those passengers with unforgettable impression.

While some architects hired to concept new airport terminals are inspired by waves, boulders or other local topography (LAX’s Tom Bradley Terminal, “The Rock” in Wellington, New Zealand), others wanted to lead with a strong cultural aesthetic (Mumbai’s new Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Marrakech-Menara Airport in Morroco).

The thoughtful design exemplified by the ten terminals on our list may just become the norm, proving that air travel really isn’t what it used to be—in the best possible ways.


Let’s Keep in Touch

Subscribe to our newsletter

You’re no longer on our newsletter list, but you can resubscribe anytime.

Come On In

U.S. issued American Express Platinum Card® and Centurion® Members, enter the first six digits of your card number to access your complimentary subscription.

Learn about membership.