New Gates for Asia
Natural light penetrates the depths of the vast interior spaces, heightening the drama of 24-hour activity. Extensive skylights and canted curtain walls give the airport a window on the sky itself and a view of jets landing, taxiing, and lifting off.
Designed with the assistance of engineering firm Martin & Martin of Denver, Incheon's exposed structure celebrates traditional Korean industries like shipping and steel production.
The vaulted roof of the terminal itself sits on long-spanning tubular steel compression trusses. The roof over the airside concourses, on the outer perimeter of the complex, is supported from above by masts and a catenary cable system.
Straight vertical and curving horizontal elements reflect the marine history of the region, including the large ships anchored nearby in Incheon Harbor. To welcome drop-offs on the land side, curbside canopies reach out beyond the canted curtain wall, and sheltering steel grids swoop and fly over drop-off areas with high-tech exuberance.
Incheon combines techtonics with cultural warmth and symbolism, a mix at home in modern Korea. Carved into the core of the symmetrical terminal is the Great Hall, conceived as a place of welcome and cultural expression. The 330-foot (100-meter) span of the roof connects five levels of the airport, all activated with glass elevators. From the top level, mezzanine restaurants overlook the airfield.
A Traveler's Indoor Garden
At some point in their trip through the airport, most eyes come to rest on the gardens on the floor below, where traditional Korean pride in growing things combines with abundant natural light to produce spectacular indoor scenery.
The interior landscape is planted with Korean pines 50 to 65 feet (15 to 20 meters) in height. A reflecting pool and water wall are also part of this peaceful center in a busy city of travelers. The Great Hall also a hub of activity and a dramatic backdrop for pageantry, attracting passengers with the sights and sounds of special events.
With their vast size, heavy traffic, and complex functions, airports make circulation planning a science and an evolving art. Incheon is part of that evolution. It is designed around easy and intuitive wayfinding, with passenger paths separated vertically according to departing and arriving categories.
Departing passengers check in at the third level before descending to the concourse on the airside. Arrivals flow into the second, or mezzanine level, and descend to the first level to claim baggage and connect with "meeters and greeters." The train to nearby Seoul comes and goes on the basement level, where concessions line a long lobby.
Departing passengers definitely get the better views. They arrive at the airport and check in under the roof at the third level, where the blues and grays of sea and sky surround a high, light-filled lobby topped with skylights and exposed steel trusses.
At Incheon, the ticket counters aren't backed to the wall. They are islands laid out in modular units, and departing passengers flow around them as they check in. Then they descend to the concourse level to enter the security, passport control, and customs declaration areas.
Materials and Structure
The Korean granite, which wraps three sides of the security area, serves to enclose sensitive spaces, but it also makes symbolic reference to the traditional stone gates of the city of Seoul. Wood paneling and soothing colors, designed to lower stress levels, line the walls of the security and customs areas. After passing through them, departing passengers emerge into the bright expanse of the concourse itself.
The concourse area, which reaches out from the perimeter of the arcing terminal, is sheltered by a flat roof suspended from a catenary system of masts and cables. A strip of skylights cuts through the roof to expose the structural system above.