Heathrow Terminal 5
There are various lounge areas, each providing a different environment for passengers. Visitors can choose to sit in the high-quality seating in front of the enormous glazed windows that overlook the planes, or visit the various soft play areas for children, or sit in the quieter business-oriented waiting areas.
The undulating roof overhead unites the building, both outside and inside, as spaces are formed by flexible interior walls as a sequence of spaces or buildings within the building.
Travelers who experience T5 from the outside are greeted by a 35-meter- (115-foot-) wide public plaza between the terminal and a vast 3,800-space parking structure. Designed to create a bit of green landscaping, the tree-lined plaza includes seating and views, albeit dominated by the bulky mass of the multistory parking structure.
The environmental strategy for the Heathrow projects was studied both as an overall system and in also in phases, so that each part of the airport regeneration meets emerging sustainability and technical criteria as well as the changing needs of the airport.
Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners is known for its commitment to sustainable design. At T5, sustainability is integral to the design of the building. The compact high-rise form reduces the building footprint and envelope size; glazed walls allow daylight across the terminal; and, perhaps most of all, the "loose fit" design creates flexible spaces, reducing future need for rebuilding and renovating.
Unfortunately for British Airways and many travelers, in the weeks after T5 opened for business, the new terminal faced extensive service problems, with reportedly 500 flights canceled in the first two weeks and many more flights delayed.
The public relations disaster led British Airways to postpone moving its long-haul flights to T5 until summer 2008. Meanwhile, it struggles to cope with the specially designed, high-tech baggage-handling systems that should have been a unique selling point for the terminal.
Despite this, the client, British Airports Authority, calls T5 "a quantum leap" and the renovated Heathrow "a new airport for London."
With 16 major projects and over 147 subprojects, the scale and complexity of the buildings at Heathrow make it the UK's largest and most ambitious construction project. Dozens of consultants and designers have contributed to the works.
One of the next projects underway is Heathrow East, to be designed by Foster + Partners. It has been granted planning permission to replace two of the airport's oldest terminals, T1 and T2. Due to be completed in time for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, it will feature photovoltaic roof tiles and a combined heating, cooling, and power system that will use waste heat from electricity generation to warm the building.
Terri Peters is a writer and designer based in London.
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