In Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev International Airport is located 30km northeast of the city. It is not only the busiest airport of the country but also of the entire Caucasus area. Built to increase the capacity of the existing airport, the new terminal with a total of 63 thousand square meters (covered area) aims to rise the passenger traffic of the airport to 3 million per year.
Istanbul-based design practice Autoban has been appointed to create the interior design concept for the new Heydar Aliyev International Airport terminal.
As a result of globalization, travelling habits are changing rapidly and airports are fast becoming destinations of their own within the tourism industry. Keeping this fact in mind, the new Heydar Aliyev International Airport terminal is designed as a forward-thinking, modern building.
The terminal’s unique design concept offered by Autoban covers all sections and areas of the terminal that are used by the passengers. The main design idea is based on breaking away from the typology of conventional airports that overwhelm passengers with their scale, standards and technology. Taking inspiration from the hospitality feature of the Azerbaijani culture, and the country’s recent social and economic transformations, the aim has been to create a welcoming, comfortable and contemporary environment that generates a sense of belonging and home feel for its users – a brand new passenger experience at an airport.
This approach also brought forward unconventional thinking in terms of forms, materials and production methods. The interior is characterised by a simple palette of natural materials, such as wood and natural stones – materials that are unlikely to be used at transportation hubs – and their presence is highligted by indirect soft and warm lighting.
The largest components of the terminal interior are custom-made wooden cocoon units installed at social areas in an attempt to create different perceptions of height to break the monotomy, as well as to bring the gigantic proportions of the airport down to human scale. Containing cafes, ticket kiosks and other amenities, these organic-shaped cocoons with heights changing between 6.2m and 10.5m create a sequence of spaces within the shell of the airport’s vast interior.
These cocoon units while coherent with the idea of mobility which is the main constituent of airports in general, also highlight Autoban’s design approach very clearly as physical evidences of spaces in spaces (mini architecture), and of the relationship between in & out. “From production to the experience, this unique arrangement is innovative in both physical and abstract sense of the word. Having different functions each and together with the landscape design around them, these cocoon units form the social areas of the terminal.”
Cocoons have wooden shells and they evolve from the structure of an organism. With the choice of material they create ‘unexpected’ and ‘surprising’ effects within the technical environment of an airport. They also form an emotional intimacy in human perception with the particular texture they feature.
As results of an experimental and progressive design approach, the cocoons trigger the human desire to explore. It is also important that they were made available using basic design methods and traditional materials.
All the other furnishing and lightings are custom-made for the project to maintain a sense of continuity within the setting, there are also project-specific details developed on the basis of high volume of terminal traffic, functionality and comfort. Check-in and passport control areas are equipped with floor-fixed furniture whereas food and beverage, lounge, cocoon and VIP zones contain flexible furniture. Triangular forms covering floors, walls and ceiling repeat on wooden, painted and upholstered surfaces to complement the main design scheme.