Rethinking airports

I am writing this from LaGuardia Airport in New York City. This being the holiday season, the terminal is filled with travelers waiting patiently — or in some cases not so patiently — to get from one place to another.

A surprisingly large number of people are simply standing around, just staring at the LCD monitors showing when their plane might depart. In some cases they stand there a very long time, knowing full well that their plane isn’t scheduled to arrive for another hour or more.

I find myself questioning the approach we take to airport design, on a fundamental level. If you know that a significant portion of your population will be spending hours of their lives in a location, why design it to be such an “in between” place?

It seems to me that airports could be thought of differently. Why not make it a place for constructive engagement? An airport could contain a library, or a problem-solving place, or a focus for community discussion or other activities.

I suspect that with a little imagination, the entire experience could be turned on its head, promoted from an oddly liminal zone where chunks of life are largely wasted, to a destination in its own right, where people can go to be fully engaged with each other and with their own lives.

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