AR Awards for Emerging Architecture

Highly commended


Airport terminal

Dalaman, Turkey

December 2006
The general disagreeability of airports is well known to the point of cliché, so it was heartening to reflect on this attempt by Emre Arolat and his partner Gonca Çirakoglu, with Bunyamin Derman, to uplift and civilise a fundamentally dreary building type. The jury also acknowledged and applauded the project's scale, compared with the (albeit seductive) array of houses and follies that tend to predominate in the early stages of most architectural careers.
Set on Turkey's south-west Mediterranean coast, Dalaman is an important hub for a growing number of tourists who flock to enjoy the region’s sybaritic delights. This new international terminal replaces an existing building that had failed to keep pace with increasing passenger volumes. Capable of handling five million passengers per year (the vast majority during summer), the new terminal is the third largest in Turkey, servicing daily domestic flights from Istanbul as well as chartered and scheduled international traffic.
To dispel that deadening sense of airport anomie, the architects introduce light and views at every opportunity. The new terminal is a crisp, undemonstrative Miesian box, its glazed walls shaded from the more extreme effects of the Turkish sun by an equally Miesian roof canopy that seems to hover lightly over the glass volume. The 'detached' roof arrangement also encourages airflow through the building. The canopy extends on the landside to form a monumental porte-cochère for receiving departing passengers.
In an organisational sequence familiar to many modern airports (Barajas, Kansai), departures are at upper level, with arrivals and baggage below, but here, in a much smaller building, circulation is more compact, thus minimising the trudge to departure gates.
Once through the formalities of check-in and security, departing passengers head through to a boarding gate zone running along the north edge of the building. In between is a small canyon of consumerism for whiling away the waiting hours. Though most flights dock at boarding piers, there is a lounge at tarmac level for those being bussed to and from their planes. Arriving passengers follow the same sequence in reverse, one level below.
Compared with the flashiness and dislocation of most airport interiors, Dalaman is a model of restraint. Changes of level and a subtly orchestrated play of natural light give a sense of orientation. Materials speak for themselves concrete columns, clear glass screens, dark timber floors and wall panels and detailing has a thoughtful refinement. Check-in counters are adorned by a soothing mural of rippling cornfields and the airport’s backroom staff enjoy a private courtyard garden on the building’s east side.
The ongoing security paranoia has whittled away any last vestiges of gloss from modern air travel, but Dalaman is a dignified attempt to make amends. The true test, however, will come in high summer when it is besieged by mobs of hot, fractious tourists, but hopefully the architecture will be robust enough to cope. C. S.

Emre Arolat Architects and Bunyamin Derman, Istanbul
Ali Bekman
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