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Spectacular new terminal in Azerbaijan: American white oak welcomes travellers in Baku

BAKU/AZERBAIJAN, March 12, 2015 - The new terminal at Azerbaijan’s Heydar Aliyev International Airport recently opened its doors to travellers in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. The landmark terminal features interior architecture and experiential design by the Istanbul-based Autoban studio, which has developed a reputation for its imaginative, human approach to design. The contemporary interiors overturn the traditional airport conventions of cavernous space and impersonal experience.

 

American oak veneers at Haydev Aliyev Airport in Baku

Inside the newly designed terminal at Hydar Aliyev International Airport in Baku | photo: K Sanliman

Creating a new terminal

The terminal building’s conceptual architecture was designed by Arup, whilst Autoban was responsible for all of the interior architecture. Commenting on the triangular structure of the building, which is also reflected in the entire interior, Seyhan Özdemir, Co-founder of Autoban, says: “Triangular geometry comes from the architecture scheme and structural design of the airport building, and we continued this throughout the interior to present one strong fluid design. We believe architecture and interior design should be coherent. Using triangular forms was a way of respecting the architecture and adopting it for us.” And with regards to the design, Özdemir explains it needed to reflect Azerbaijani culture, values, and its people. The client, Azerbaijan Airlines, wanted a space that evoked a feeling of warm hospitality and a contemporary presentation of traditional design touch points extended to a whole airport terminal. “As a result of globalization, our travelling habits are changing rapidly and airports are fast becoming destinations of their own within the tourism industry. They are the welcoming faces of the countries, where you get the first impression about its culture. Keeping this fact in mind, the new Heydar Aliyev International Airport terminal was designed as a forward-thinking, modern building that fits the new face of the modern city of Baku,” said Özdemir. Autoban’s Red Dot award-winning design spans the entirety of the terminal’s passenger spaces, and includes custom-made wooden ‘cocoons’, made using American white oak veneers The cocoons create a sense of welcome and discovery, and opportunities to either meet or retreat.

Wooden cocoons and custom-built furniture at Baku Airport

At Heydar Aliyev Airport, the custom-built furnishings and lighting schemes upend airport typologies, opting for tactile natural materials such as wood, stone and textiles, gently and warmly lit. This creates an inviting, intriguing landscape within the huge transportation hub that challenges expectations of the airport environment. | photo: K Sanliman

Design goal: warm hospitality

Explaining the design inspiration, Sefer Çağlar, Co-founder of Autoban adds: “The keyword for us was ‘warm hospitality’. To achieve this, we adopted the architectural structure of the terminal and played with micro-architecture within the cavernous space to bring it down to a more human scale, so that it felt like a cocoon. This is not an airport where the space dictates. Instead, the people are in control. Travelling has become a huge part of our lives. So as designers we believe it’s our goal to make it as enjoyable as possible for the public by changing the fundamentals of such transportation hubs.”

Wide use of wood materials

With regards to the extensive use of wood in the airport, Çağlar said: “There is a common belief that it is not suitable, and there are many other preconceptions about timber and airports that lead to a certain uniformity. We wanted to challenge this. Why not use wood at an airport? How can we incorporate wood into our design, and break away from the typology of conventional airports that overwhelm passengers with their scale, standards and technology? These were the questions. As a result, with the aid of innovative production technologies, wood became quite a practical material for the airport.”


American white oak cocoons at Baku airport

The largest cocoon is made of clad with 2,050 panels in 40 different sizes. | photo: K Sanliman

16 "cocoons"

There are a total of 16 cocoons - 11 are solid in form and are clad in wooden panels while 5 have open frameworks. The cocoons have a variety of uses; there are two cafes, champagne and caviar bar, a play area for children, a spa and beauty shop, a music and bookstore, and some provide amenities such as luggage storage. The use of the cocoons is flexible and it is expected they will change over time as the airport terminal evolves. The cocoons were manufactured in Ankara with American white oak lumber and veneers, finished in a dark stain. In total, 10,000 square metres of American white oak veneer were used in the project. To make the cocoons, Autoban played with natural materials and worked with craftsmen, but also used CNC milling and laser-cutting. Autoban printed a 3D model of the open-framework cocoons and built a full-size mock-up in Ankara to test their functionality.

The completion of the whole project took just over two years with a design team of 15. Now spanning 65,000 square metres, more than six million passengers a year are expected to pass through the airport. “The response to the new terminal has been incredibly positive and the comment we hear over and over again is that it doesn’t feel like being in an airport, which we take as a great compliment” concluded Çağlar.

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A range of cocoons with different purposesView of new terminal at Haydev Aliyev Airport in BakuRest area inside the new terminal between the cocoons