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Airports

Shimojishima terminal reflects robust but relaxed design ethic

15 April 2019
Aircraft pictured above the runway end at Shimojishima Airport that protrudes over the sea. Source: Getty Images

Japanese designer Nikken has said it applied a new design concept in a recently completed project at Shimojishima Airport.

Although the island of Shimojishima is less than 10 km 2 , the authorities in Okinawa Prefecture want to build up tourism and commissioned Nikken to develop a new terminal for the airport, which had a 3,000 m-long runway but little other infrastructure.

Nikken identified an opportunity to design something different. “Traditional terminal design can be boring,” said Hong Heng Yuan, one of the architects. “Nobody really chooses to go to airports unless they need to fly. Why not go to the airports to have a drink or something to eat, even if you don’t want to fly?”

The new-look Shimojishima Airport, which now handles scheduled low-cost flights after the terminal opened on 30 March, features a design that invites visitors to relax and not necessarily think that their holiday has come to an end. “We want passengers to think that their holiday will keep going until they actually board the aircraft,” Hong told Jane’s . “In the meantime, they will feel relaxed.”

The island authorities wanted the new terminal to be built as quickly as possible, so Nikken designed the building without the need for any major underground structures. However, Shimojishima suffers at least one typhoon every year and it is vulnerable to tsunamis caused by earthquakes. Therefore, the terminal had to be robust.

“Despite its very open appearance, the terminal structure is therefore extremely strong,” Hong said. “You would feel very safe at this airport, although there is nothing obtrusive in the design to show this.”

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