07 Jul 17

Departure From Neutrality

Authentic sense of place

Great airports used to essentially look the same. To be a truly global hub, a facility would attract recognized retail names and sell a mix of well-known liquor, tobacco, and beauty brands in its duty-free shops. Its aspiration: to move people through as quickly as possible. While efficiency remains a priority, airports are increasingly viewed as brand ambassadors for their destinations—and even destinations in themselves. Travellers want to be immersed in a culture from the minute they step off the plane, putting a higher premium on design touches and features that reinforce what’s unique. In practice, that means more emphasis on local wood and other construction materials, distinctive native colours, local art, and regional retailers alongside recognized brands.


The airport becomes an embodiment of the culture, showcasing the destination as a place to visit, to invest, to study, and to live. 

The message is reinforced with kiosks and booths that help people connect with the local culture, from booking theatre tickets and local tours to connecting with the local chamber of commerce. The experience isn’t limited to when passengers arrive. Airports also reinforce the message when people leave. Because departing passengers typically spend more time at the airport, the departure area offers numerous opportunities to showcase the culture and offer bespoke experiences that boost the brand message. That can mean wandering amid orchids and sunflowers at Changi’s transit-area gardens or inhaling cinnamon-scented oxygen at Tokyo’s Narita Airport. The airport becomes part of the travel experience.

City Local Experience

  • Redefine the airport experience to focus around local attractions and identity.
  • Showcase local business in retail, dining, and kiosk options.
  • Create opportunities to connect with key attractions of destination, marketing current attractions and selling tickets on site.

NADI International 7 Domestic Airport NADI, FIJI

The airport terminal is being redesigned to showcase local Fijian culture and the area’s natural beauty. Local material and textures convey a strong reference to traditional Fijian crafts and artefacts. The aim is to create a warm, inspiring, and contemporary environment that makes ample use of natural light, fresh colours, and the local landscape.

The ceiling in the departure area has been raised seven metres and the floor space increased by 4,000 m2, enabling the creation of a children’s play area, as well as space for a local food outlet and specialty retail. Spaces with various settings allow choice and heightened user experience, with technology integrated and art used as a narrative within the space. Expanded views of Nadi Bay and the surrounding mountains reinforce Fiji’s beauty.