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Air travel is constantly changing, and airports are always adapting. From accommodating more and more airplane traffic to opening lounges and adding Wi-Fi and more and more amenities, airports are rushing to accommodate passengers’ needs with more outlets, more eco-friendly options, and friendlier public spaces. Or so do the best ones among them, like Singapore’s Changi, while others are struggling to keep up (looking at you, La Guardia, although things are changing for the better there.)

To find out where all of this progress may lead, Fentress Architects challenged architecture students to imagine what the future of airports might look like, receiving submissions from more than 500 students in 50 countries. Their visions are pretty stunning, and they were judged by a panel of experts that included TPG contributor Christine Negroni.

The winning design came from Daoru Wang at North Carolina State University. He called his design “Infinity Airport,” referencing its two overlapping figure-eight concourses. Regardless of how practical you think it may be, the elevated terminals and big windows would make for some great planespotting.

Daoru Wang
Daoru Wang’s “Infinity Airport” took the first prize in Fentress Architects’ competition. Rendering courtesy of Fentress Architects.

Although the designs differ in many ways, a few things are consistent across the board. The future of airports, it seems, will be efficient in terms of the environment and the passenger experience. Contestants emphasized accessibility by car and rail so their proposed airports can best serve their respective communities. Some designs even featured on-site housing, referencing a principle they call “the aerotropolis” — a concept putting the airport at the center of an integrated metropolis, rather than as an isolated entity.

That’s the principle at thh heart of the design that took second place, by Samantha Pires at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, New Jersey. With a big airport right in her city, she reimagined what Newark would look like according to those principles. We can all agree that her design looks a lot better than EWR does today.

Samantha Pires’ reimagining of Newark airport. Rendering courtesy of Fentress Architects

Third place went to a stunning idea for a new, city-like version of Heathrow, London’s and Europe’s biggest airport, by Christopher Johnson from the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham, UK. Trees are an especially striking element of his design.

Christopher Johnson
Christopher Johnson’s “LondonHeathrow2075” came in third place, featuring huge windows and green spaces. Rendering courtesy of Fentress Architects.

Check out the finalists on the Fentress Architects website.

Featured photo of Samantha Pires’ second place design courtesy of Fentress Architects.

Know before you go.

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