Malaysian students among winners of global airport design competition

  • Design
  • Saturday, 05 Oct 2019

The LondonHeathrow2075.

Can you imagine what KL International Airport would look like in 2075?

In the 2019 Fentress Global Challenge competition, concepts of futuristic airports were presented by design students all over the world.

Organised by Fentress Architects – a global design firm headquartered in the United States – the challenge is in its seventh edition, in line with promoting innovative design in public architecture.

“Each year, the Fentress Global Challenge captures the creativity of young talent as contestants conceive innovative design ideas that create a better physical environment for our future world. The critical thinking and quality of ideas presented in this year’s competition were no exception; the entries were absolutely stunning,” said Curt Fentress, founder of the firm, in a press release.

With over 500 registrations, the competition drew entries from more than 50 countries. Participants sought to improve every aspect of the airport passenger terminal building, delving deeply into one or more highly relevant area in airport architecture and the future of aviation – mobility, urbanisation, globalisation, technology, flexibility, security, project feasibility and passenger experience.

The three winning proposals reflected “bold conceptual thinking, acute sensitivity to context, and skilled design”.

Two architecture students from Universiti Malaya Kuala Lumpur won the top People’s Choice Award for their design Y3M.

Here is the full list of winners:

1st Place – Infinity Airport

Winner: Daoru Wang, North Carolina State University, US

"To improve the efficiency of the airport typology, this project underwent an intensive study of aircraft traffic flow and further developed the concept of a ‘drive-through airport’. Just as important as the internal operations, the connection to the existing urban fabric ensures that the design is not only efficient but also celebrated and utilised properly,” explained Daoru Wang.

“Taking inspiration from the torus knot, which appears like two overlapping infinity symbols, the general shape of the airport combines the complexity of the form and the ideology of infinity by creating the circular and endless concourse system,” said Wang.

Newark Airport Biophilic Headhouse and Community Nexus

2nd Place – Newark Airport Biophilic Headhouse and Community Nexus

Winner: Samantha Pires, New Jersey Institute of Technology, US

“The project uses this rail access and a consolidated terminal to explore ideas defined by economic analyst John Kasarda, (author of) the Aerotropolis. The aerotropolis is a conceptual type of urban form, with the airport as the centre of the metropolis,” wrote Samantha Pires.

“This project applies the concept of the aerotropolis and proposes that the airport of the future is one that brings economic development to the community that it serves. It proposes that the airport of the future should not be governed by fear and ‘security theatre’ that runs modern airports, but that it should be a place for community engagement, job opportunities and a catalyst for neighbourhood development and benefit,” said Pires.


3rd Place – LondonHeathrow2075

Winner: Christopher Johnson, University for the Creative Arts, Farnham, UK

“A new airport concept typology explores future technological trends and smart cities to connect humanity directly to generate a new urban fabric within the existing airport landmass of Heathrow.

"A drive-through concept that sits below the airport terminal allows aircraft traffic and waiting times to be reduced. Technological innovations suggest a reduction in physical passports, security and immigration as it moves to an online environment,” said Christopher Johnson.

“An international zone that lives within a country that provides free roam to visitors and guests creates a global destination that re-invests in the notion of the UK’s stance on the global market,” he said.

In the People’s Choice Awards, shortlisted participants ran their own social media marketing campaigns to generate likes.


#1 People’s Choice Award – Y3M (2,800+ votes on social media)

Chai Yi Yang and Ng Yi Ming, Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

“We envision the possibility of a synthetic amalgamation – the integration of an Elon Musk-like Hyperloop tube system and capsule fuselage technology. The great leap in technology advancement would manifest a subversive paradigm transformation towards current airport morphology, from a centralised mass into a vessel-like network,” said Chai Yi Yang and Ng Yi Ming.

“The new model suggests a seamless transition from rail to flight – elementary yet expeditious. This gesture is denying the airport as an isolated system in the collective locomotion structure, bringing aviation closer to our regular transit as a unification where we expect a new civic role.

“This notion adopts the ideology of Hong Kong as a capital of movement and efficiency, being a creation of international identity. The other part of this concept advocates ecological concern to reserve a greater land compared to traditional typology,” they said.

Six Lane City

#2 People’s Choice Award – Six Lane City (2,500+ votes on social media)

Riki Rozenberg, Evelyn Kreslavsky, Mai Whiteson, Tel Aviv University, Israel

“Today, O'Hare International Airport in Chicago extends over 31sq km, most of which are not fully exploited. Therefore, we decided to create a new form of city, 198m above ground level, which will be built on top of the existing lanes or runways of the airfield.

“Our goal is to create an aerotropolis – an airport which integrates residential solutions, economic opportunities and cultural experiences, which, we think, will bring people closer together,” said the students.

Registration is now open for the 2020 edition of the Fentress Global Challenge.

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