Mumbai, India: Today, India’s Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, along with visiting dignitaries and representatives from the private developer, GVK, inaugurated Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport Terminal 2, the stunning new air hub designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). Located in the heart of India’s financial capital, the new hub adds 4.4 million square feet of space to accommodate 40 million passengers per year operating 24 hours a day. By orchestrating the complex web of passengers and planes into a design that feels intuitive and responds to the region’s rocketing growth, the new Terminal 2 asserts the airport’s place as a preeminent gateway to India and underscores the country’s status as an international economic power.
According to Mr. G V Sanjay Reddy, the Managing Director of GVK Mumbai International Airport Pvt. Ltd. (MIAL), “The new Terminal 2 at CSIA is a monument to the beautiful spirit of Mumbai and its people. This terminal will make CSIA a gateway to the city of Mumbai and India with international and domestic passengers. We are happy to work with SOM, who helped us translate our dream and vision into reality.”
The new terminal combines international and domestic passenger services under one roof, optimizing terminal operations and reducing passenger walking distances. Inspired by the form of traditional Indian pavilions, the four-story terminal stacks a grand “headhouse,” or central processing podium, on top of highly adaptable and modular concourses below. Rather than compartmentalizing terminal functions, three symmetrical concourses radiate outwards from a central processing core and are therefore easily reconfigured to “swing” between serving domestic flights or international flights. Just as the terminal celebrates a new global, high-tech identity for Mumbai, the structure is imbued with responses to the local setting, history, and culture.
“We designed an airport that is intimately connected to its surroundings,” explains Roger Duffy, FAIA, Design Partner at SOM. “By subtly incorporating regional patterns and textures at all scales, Terminal 2 resonates with a sense of place and serves as a spectacular symbol for India and Mumbai.” From the articulated coffered treatment on the headhouse columns and roof surfaces to the intricate jali window screens that filter dappled light into the concourses, Terminal 2 demonstrates the potential for a modern airport to view tradition anew.
A Gateway to India
All international and domestic passengers enter the terminal headhouse on the fourth floor, accessed from a sweeping elevated road. At the entrance, the lanes split, making room for wide drop-off curbs with ample space for traditional Indian departure ceremonies. From the moment of arrival, the terminal embraces travelers. Above, the headhouse roof extends to cover the entire arrivals roadway, protecting passengers and their guests from Mumbai’s heat and unpredictable monsoon weather. A 50-foot-tall glass cable-stayed wall — the longest in the world — opens to the soaring space of the check-in hall. The transparent facade also allows accompanying well-wishers, who must remain outside of the terminal due to Indian aviation regulations, to watch as their friends and family depart.
Once inside, travelers enter a warm, light-filled chamber, sheltered underneath a long-span roof supported by an array of multi-story columns. The monumental spaces created beneath the thirty mushrooming columns call to mind the airy pavilions and interior courtyards of traditional regional architecture. Small disks of colorful glass recessed within the canopy’s coffers speckle the hall below with light. The constellation of colors makes reference to the peacock, the national bird of India, and the symbol of the airport. The check-in hall leads to a retail hub — a common space that allows passengers to shop, eat, and watch planes take off though expansive, floor-to-ceiling windows. Centrally located at the junction of the concourses and the terminal core, these commercial plazas provide a focal point of activity in close proximity to the gates.
Within these spaces and throughout the concourses, culturally referential fixtures and details, such as custom chandeliers inspired by the lotus flower and traditional mirror mosaic work created by local artists, ground the traveler to a community and culture beyond the airport. Regional artwork and artifacts are displayed on a central, multi-story Art Wall, illuminated by skylights above. The prevalence of local art and culture, coupled with the use of warm colors and elegant accents, elevates the ambiance of terminal beyond the typical, often unimaginative airport experience. Although the terminal is four stories, interconnecting light slots and multi-story light wells ensure that light penetrates into the lower floors of the building, acting as a constant reminder of the surrounding city and landscape. At dusk, illuminated from within, the terminal glows like a sculpted chandelier.
A Flexible Footprint
The construction site of the new terminal building was located in close proximity to the existing terminal which had to remain fully operational during construction. This site requirement inspired the elongated X-shaped plan of the terminal, which could both mold around existing structures and incorporate modular designs to accommodate rapid and phased construction. This innovative form also allows for the consolidation of important passenger processing, baggage handling, and retail/dining functions at the center of the terminal. On each floor, radiating piers permit the shortest possible walking distances from the center of the terminal to boarding areas, while also maximizing the terminal’s perimeter for aircraft gates.
The terminal’s roof — one of the largest in the world without an expansion joint — ensures further terminal flexibility. The long-span capabilities of the steel truss structure allow for the spacing of the thirty 130-foot columns to be far enough apart to not only give a feeling of openness to the large processing areas below but also to allow for maximum flexibility in the arrangement of ticket counters and other necessary processing facilities.
A Hub of Energy Efficiency
Terminal 2 uses a high-performance glazing system with a custom frit pattern to achieve optimal thermal performance and mitigate glare. Perforated metal panels on the terminal’s curtain wall filter the low western and eastern sun angles, creating a comfortable day-lit space for waiting passengers, and responsive daylight controls balance outdoor and indoor light levels for optimal energy savings. Strategically-placed skylights throughout the check-in hall will reduce the terminal’s energy usage by 23 percent.
At Terminal 2, modern materials and technologies are used to powerful effect. But while cutting-edge strategies set a new standard for sustainable, modern airport design, the terminal is as much a showpiece of the history and traditions of India and Mumbai as it is an unprecedented structural and technological achievement. Rising from the Mumbai cityscape, Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport celebrates both India’s rich cultural heritage and the country’s increasingly global future.
About Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) is one of the leading architecture, interior design, engineering, and urban-planning firms in the world, with a 75-year reputation for design excellence and a portfolio that includes some of the most important architectural accomplishments of the 20th and 21st centuries. Since its inception, SOM has been a leader in the research and development of specialized technologies, new processes and innovative ideas, many of which have had a palpable and lasting impact on the design profession and the physical environment. The firm’s longstanding leadership in design and building technology has been honored with more than 1,600 awards for quality, innovation, and management. The American Institute of Architects has recognized SOM twice with its highest honor, the Architecture Firm Award—in 1962 and again in 1996. The firm maintains offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Mumbai, and Abu Dhabi.