Monday, March 30, 2009

Braniff Terminal - Dallas Love Field

Remember when flying was fun? Not just the thrill of boarding an aircraft and flying to a destination, but the arrival at an airport and checking in for the flight. Today airports are impersonal and sterile places where architects and interior designers have become lazy relying on large vaulted ceilings and plenty of light to create an ambience, which they themselves cannot. We try and spend as little time as possible at these so called marvels, because the interiors are anything but inspiring.

Curbside and airside after we have passed through security we are faced with bland concourses and departure lounges that seem more like a suburban shopping mall or prison waiting room. Since the advent of jet travel, few airlines have taken the bold step, of creating spaces that were different both architecturally (TWA Terminal JFK) and interior design wise (Braniff- Love Field Dallas).

Braniff opened their terminal of the future at Dallas Love Field in 1968, designed by Jack Corgan and decorated by Herman Miller with Ray and Charles Eames designs. This was the start of the space age, with metal disc minis from Paris and ‘2001- A Space Oyssey’ waiting to hit the big screen. The airline had started their “The End of the Plain Plane” campaign earlier which saw a complete makeover of everything to do with Braniff, from Pucci uniforms, aircraft, ticket counters and everything the public would see. This was a corporate makeover with a “BANG”, which the travelling public couldn’t help but notice, and I am sure influenced one as to which airline you would buy a ticket for.

On arrival and checking in for you flight, you had a sense of what you were going to expect from Braniff. Even though the check in area might not have been as light filled as some modern day equivalents, here was a space that one noticed, from the use of natural wood, to the ceiling with Braniff advertising suspended from reflective discs, to the continuous Braniff logo behind the counters.
Another area used large spheres of light clustered together to give a very space age feel, that drew your eye up to the ceiling.
Lighting treatments were a big factor of the terminal design. Instead of relying on natural light (which isn’t a bad thing) designers used different effects that would enhance the other materials used in the space. Note the silhouettes of the planes behind the check-in counters. In a modern airport do we see any reference to what the purpose the building holds? Not one picture or image of a plane or a picture of an exotic location, only banal advertising for mobile phones or credit cards dominate public spaces.

Once airside and into the departure lounge we could be forgiven for thinking that we were in a hip nightclub or a pop art gallery.

Bright colours, stripes and corporate logos adorned the walls, and bought us quickly into the space age.

This time airside at some of the gates the passenger was met with a soaring ceiling, with hanging pop art that again drew our eyes above our heads. Screens around clustered seating gave us privacy, which was not necessarily a good thing, however after waiting in today’s excuses of departure lounges and the seething mass of tired humanity that inhabits them, I think the screens are a good idea.

Even the baggage carousels were not immune, and gleamed with stainless steel and op art imagery

Now that flying has become so much of a necessity for some and not the special occasion it used to be, can't the airlines and architects make the experience a little more pleasurable? Give us something to look at while standing in line to check in or going through security. Make us think about our surroundings like Braniff did. While not to everyone’s taste it did give us something to talk about.

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