Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport Terminal 2
15. June 2015
"Cultural design collaboration" is not seen typically in a list of an architect's consultants, but it makes perfect sense here, given the client's mandate that the new terminal at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport embodies "the heritage of India and the spirit of Mumbai." SOM took that requirement seriously, collaborating with Indian fashion designers Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla and developing a design that is simultaneously contemporary and rooted in the country's traditional expressions. SOM Design Partner Roger Duffy answered a few questions about the project.
Please provide an overview of the project.
As Mumbai transforms into an international business destination, the new terminal at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport adds 4.4 million square feet of new space to accommodate the anticipated 40 million passengers per year. The structure’s form – a grand headhouse rising above curving concourses below – is inspired by traditional Indian building forms. Within the headhouse, soaring columns and a daylit ceiling create an airy, shimmering environment.
The four-story terminal stacks a grand “headhouse,” or central processing podium, on top of highly adaptable and modular concourses below. In order to minimize construction and get maximum use of the gates, the concourses (piers) are planned “swing” between predominantly domestic operations during the day and international flights at night.
This is a building that is very much of its place. Throughout the terminal, the incorporation of traditional details appropriately resonates with India’s rich culture. The terminal’s design responds to the Indian tradition of large homecoming and departure ceremonies. In recognition and celebration of the custom for large groups of family and friends to assemble at the airport, the curbs at the terminal’s entrance have been enlarged to create gracious drop-off zones where people can gather to welcome or send off travelers. The striking cable-net glass façade also allows these well-wishes, who must remain outside of the terminal due to Indian aviation regulations, to watch as their loves ones begin their journeys.
What are the main ideas and inspirations influencing the design of the building?
SOM’s client, Mr. G V Sanjay Reddy, stated his goals clearly: the terminal must embody “the heritage of India and the spirit of Mumbai.” Efficiency, flexibility, and forward-looking operations were paramount criteria for him, but these needed to be expressed with a distinctively Indian ambience and high level passenger experience. The design needed to take inspiration from the past while expressing a sense of timelessness and modernity. To achieve this, SOM had to pair its extensive experience designing airport terminals with first-hand research into the design culture of India. The SOM design team immersed itself in traditional Indian art and architecture, which formed a foundation for many of the cultural installations found in the terminal. In addition, SOM collaborated with famed Indian fashion designers, Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla on aspects of the interior design of the terminal.
Were there any significant challenges that arose during the project? If so, how did you respond to them?
One of the largest challenges we faced on this project was the fact that the construction site of the new terminal building was located on top of the existing terminal, which had to remain fully operational during construction. This challenging 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.
More broadly, SOM’s largest challenge was the overarching task of designing a terminal that would set new standards for terminal planning and design, while simultaneously making it uniquely Indian. At Terminal 2, our design team worked to ensure that modern materials and technologies were incorporated. But while cutting-edge and sustainable strategies were used, we also included regional patterns and textures at all scales. Ultimately, the terminal is as much a celebration of the history and traditions of India and Mumbai as it is an unprecedented structural and technological achievement.
How did you approach designing for Mumbai/India and how would you describe the process of working on the project there?
SOM has more than 15 years of experience in India and today the firm is actively involved in several projects across the country, from Bangalore to Kolkata. Although they are geographically diverse, all of our buildings, master plans, and transportation facilities celebrate India’s unique culture. Indeed the greatest challenge – and the greatest opportunity – of these cross-cultural projects is the exercise of blending local traditions, values, and aesthetics together with SOM’s structural, architectural, and planning expertise. The result is a building that truly celebrates its rich cultural surroundings, while establishing a benchmark of quality for new buildings in this market.
How would you describe the architecture of Mumbai/India and how does the building relate to it?
Many design motifs throughout the terminal make reference to the peacock, the national bird of India, and the symbol of the airport. One example is the colored dichroic lenses within the headhouse ceiling, which emulate the colors found in the peacock feather. These small disks of colorful glass, recessed within the canopy’s coffers, flood the hall below with dappled light that animates the terminal floor.
India is also known for its hospitality, vibrant colors, and rich cultural heritage. The design of the terminal sought to provide a sense of welcome and warmth through the various materials and finishes employed. Wood ceilings, natural stones, and intimate lighting all contributed to create a hospitality-like setting.
Importantly, our terminal connects directly into the existing environment and infrastructure surrounding the airport. Formerly, transportation facilities—and especially airports—were isolated from the cities that they serviced. In Mumbai, we integrated the airport into the existing transportation fabric and furthered connectivity by developing a new road network to service the facility. Ultimately, the terminal helps knit together the historic heart of Mumbai to the south with growing neighborhoods to the east and north. Plans are also in place for the construction of an underground metro station at the terminal’s entrance, providing further connectivity to the growing city and spurring further urban development immediately surrounding the airport.
Email interview conducted by John Hill.
Second floor plan
Fourth floor plan
Building section and elevation
Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport Terminal 22015
GVK, Mumbai International Airport Pvt. Ltd.
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
New York, NY, USA
Senior Design Architect
Senior Aviation Planner
Architect and Engineer of Record
Larsen & Toubro Limited
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Cerami & Associates
Brandston Partnership Inc.
Communication, IT, Security & Special Systems
Mulvey & Banani International Inc.
Signage & Wayfinding
Pentagram & Entro Communication
Van Deusen & Associates
Cultural Design Collaboration
Abu Jani - Sandeep Khosla
4.4 million square feet
Photographs and Drawings
Courtesy of SOM