Hospitals and Airports

January 27, 2017
Source: Andy Osterlund

Hospitals and airports – these places don’t feel like Architecture.  Being in an airport is more like swimming.  The scale, alone, is like the ocean. Ceiling elements reach out in horizontal shelves like corral, and dangling, waving pieces from above, like inhabiting the space under lily pads, under moss on the surface, distant ceilings that obscure the view of the sun.  To the left and right are wide open spaces, open air through glass on one side, and alcoves with food and wares and toilets and water fountains on the other side.

These are spaces where you’re always moving, never at your destination. Even the floor moves in the direction of the currents. Trains move beside, faster fish swim around, slower fish settle into eddies and sit down at rocking chairs and USB portals.

All the materials are familiar. We look at carpet tile, the same brand and pattern we would specify for an office. Stainless steel edges, same as we would specify in restaurants. Ceiling tile, same as every ceiling tile, but an unending supply.

Wide terrazzo planes, an impenetrable surface, the floor we’ve used since the old-school roman eras. It’s permanent, it’s huge, and yet it’s polished and beautiful, with sparkling stone detail even in the largest fields. Perfect for airports, perfect for palaces.

But these are not human spaces, every decision is a calculation and a statistic. So many people, so much equipment moving, perpetually moving.

It’s a meta space perhaps, that’s the diagnosis. It’s not a city. It’s controlled access to the extreme, voluntary control. (why do we pay to be treated this way?). No one without a ticket or a badge. No bicycles. Profoundly, there is almost never anyone in an airport that I recognize. No meetings, just waiting.