Lessons from Volcano Grimsvoetn

26 05 2011

By Sarah Muscat

Another Icelandic volcano eruption! Again, hundreds of delayed or cancelled flights, and people stranded in airports across Europe!

“In England, Newcastle International Airport was worst-hit”, stated SKY News. In mainland Europe, images of crowded German airports made me wonder how the stranded passengers felt. I remembered of a presentation by fellow classmates who reiterated the words of Italo Calvino and the sense of oppression he experienced upon arrival at Trude’s airport. The airport was presented as a non-place, a transience place where no one wants to stay!

Instead airports should be welcoming, flexible and responsive to people’s different needs.

This view is also advocated by CABE in a document entitled ‘Inclusion by Design – Equality, diversity and the built environment’. Access with dignity, treatment with respect, provision of relevant services and convenience in use; were other main criteria for an inclusive design, including airport design.

In case you are stuck in a ‘non-place’, there is still hope; the ash cloud is said to clear UK by weekend!

Eruption of Volcano Grimsvoetn


Stranded Passengers at Munich Airport




3 responses

29 05 2011
Wang Jing

In the Easter Holiday, I had to spend 15 hours waiting for the flight in the Amsterdam Airport. I thought a lot of the “non-place” during those 15 hours. The airport is such a big public space that it made me felt tired even seating on the soft and comfortable sofa all the time. It is not a place for resting, the public space always bring me the tension and oppressive feeling. As a result, I think its problem is not just “non-place” without unique identity, but the design of airport lacks of considering the human scale and human feeling. It could satisfy the requirements of airplane, how can it satisfy the requirements of human being?

2 06 2011

A similar thing happened to me in December on Sunday before Christmas, when due to heavy snow in Western Europe, my flight to Amsterdam was cancelled. After 3 hours spent on Newcastle Airport in the queue to rebook the flight, I got a ticket for Wednesday to Paris. Well at least I arrived to Paris on Wednesday, but due to the flight delay from Newcastle I missed a plane to Vienna. So I had to stay overnight in Paris and then I realized what a ‘non-place’ means. The airport was full of people trying to find a place to sleep or just to lie down. Obviously all the benches were occupied. The second most popular places were the corners and all the walls which were not too cold. The airports are designed as transit places, but I think it is getting more and more obvious that designers should thing about unexpected situation and think about the airports as places of possible longer or overnight stay. My next plane was on Thursday morning, but many people were not so lucky, so their ‘non-place’ experience was much longer.

2 06 2011

I myself had many of time stuck in airports even for days. It is sad to say that we had very famous air services named “Sorry Airline” or “Delay Airline” (former Vietnam Airline and Air Pacific).
For me, airport is a place where journeys begin and end. Although in our national airport, there are plenty of shops and restaurants where people could have a seat and drinks while waiting, the fact is price there is five times more expensive. All the services there are so over-priced that make you feel you just come in because you have to do so. You feel you are really a traveller.
I used to travel by air twice a month due to my business; however, airports never bring me the feeling of comfortable. Most of the seats are metal with minimal design style; spaces are created by clone technology. Personal space does not exist because people come and go in minutes, and no space could be fitted to all individuals. Besides, the requirement of convenience, efficiency and control lead to what we call super-modernity which is not to be seen as more modern but as an eventual dissatisfaction and anxiety with a state of modernism.

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