Airports of the Future

In a recent CNN interview Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said that airports have become unnecessary shopping centers run by rich airports. Being the CEO of an ultra low cost carrier, he certainly has an interest in seeing airports become a lot more cost efficient. Then cost efficiency wasn’t a key element of a design contest for the future of airports that recently announced the spectacular winning designs.

After reviewing 200 innovative student submissions from around the world, Fentress Architects announced the winning designs for the 2011 Fentress Global Challenge, an international competition launched last year for architecture and engineering students to present their visions for the Airport of the Future. Two expert juries narrowed the submittals to 1st, 2nd and 3rd place, with two honorable mentions and 11 finalists. Designs were evaluated on Creative Approach, Response to Site, Sustainability and Functionality.

The top 16 finalist designs will gain international exposure in the traveling exhibition Now Boarding: Fentress Airports + The Architecture of Flight. The exhibit will premiere on July 15, 2012 at the Denver Art Museum. Visit for more about the competition and for information about the Now Boarding museum exhibition.

And here are the winning designs:

1st Prize – LDN Delta Airport

Oliver Andrew
London South Bank University, London


The LDN Delta Airport is designed as prefabricated, mass-produced islands situated in the Thames Estuary, upstream from London. The airport would ease the overcrowding of the surrounding airports as there are no cars, runways nor check-in desks, but is served solely via public transportation. Flight information is connected through passengers’ cell phones, providing the departure time and assigned gate. The airport supports vertical takeoff with hypersonic jets capable of flying at the edge of space, lifting off from purpose-built landing pads and uses the tidal currents to run on total sustainable power.

2nd Prize – The Airport of the Future, Los Angeles, California

Martin Sztyk
University College London, London

This proposal for the Airport of the Future is self-sustaining through the use of algae grown in nearby farms as a renewable resource. The architecture of the Airport of the Future is experiential as it intends to be a destination in itself. The future of airships and non-atmospheric flight intersects with runways, tarmacs, trains, highways and the conventional infrastructure of Los Angeles.


3rd Prize – Pocket Airports

Alexander Nevarez
Art Center College of Design, United States

Dreamers and innovators that look far beyond the present have always held the future in such high esteem. It is this optimism that propels ideas into the blue sky for the sake of imagining what is possible given the resources and technology.

 [All pictures copyright Fentress Architects & Participants]

  • Elaine Allison

    Hi Tom, great article.  I blog about customer service and design customized training programs for the travel industry and airports on customer care.  You can build the most beautiful aiport in the world, however travelers will still need knowledgeable, available and friendly staff regardless of what department they work for to keep travellers, corporations and governments inclined to select their global travel plans.  Geographic location is not always the competitive edge anymore.