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Airport inspired by a Peacock

In each of the preceding centuries, Mumbai has produced one iconic public building that has symbolized entrance into the city whether by land, as in VT Station (1887), or by sea, as in the Gateway of India (1921). Terminal 2 at CSIA is envisaged as a 21st century counterpart to these illustrious forerunners and a gateway to the subcontinent for the millions who now travel by air.

The year 2006 witnessed a momentous change for the airports in India with the privatization of Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA). In a bid to modernize the airport, the Airports Authority of India handed over the operations of CSIA to a consortium of GVK and its partners. In the new Public-Private Partnership formed, GVK Airports Holdings Private Limited along with its partners, Bid Services Division (Mauritius) Limited and ACSA Global Limited, were given the opportunity to operate, revamp the airport into a world class airport.

Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) has often been referred to as one of the most difficult airports to develop as it is a land locked airport, located in a confined area with no space to expand.

To accommodate growing demand, CSIA expansion project required unconventional approach. The limited availability of land and especially the constraints of runway and aircraft parking capacity presented a challenge. In 2011, MIAL (Mumbai International Airport Pvt. Ltd.) started work on the construction of a new Common User Terminal (CUT) named Terminal 2 or T2. The final design of T2 emerged through months of deliberations and blueprint revisions aimed at combining international and domestic passenger services under a single roof while operating existing terminal 24 hours daily. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), the size of T2 is 4.7 million square feet with annual passenger handling capacity of 40 million.

Planning

All international and domestic passengers enter the terminal head house 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 departure. The terminal comprises of four levels – Level 4 planned for international departures, level 3 planned for domestic departures, Level 2 is dedicated for Arrivals and Level-1 is designed for ground transportation. Above, the head house roof extends to cover the entire arrivals roadway, protecting passengers and their guests from city’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, to watch as their friends and family depart.

A single roof terminal eliminates the need for passenger transfers and improves efficiency in operations by bringing together all the airlines operating international and domestic under a single terminal, as well as by achieving better utilization of space and facilities. Once inside, passengers 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 colourful glass recessed within the canopy’s coffers speckle the hall below with light. The constellation of colours makes reference to the peacock, the national bird of India, and the symbol of the airport.

The 35,600sqm check-in hall leads to a retail hub (21346sqm of retail + F&B area and 12464sqm of lounge Area), that allows passengers to shop, eat, and watch planes take off though expansive, floor-to-ceiling windows. The airport also consists of one day-hotel – 1600sqm and one transit hotel – 1520sqm. The Check in Hall ceiling height of 15m is conceptualised to have a language that is distinctively Indian and continues across all the four levels of the terminal.

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 passenger to a community and culture beyond the airport. Regional artworks and artefacts are displayed on a central, multi-story Art Wall, illuminated by skylights above.

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.

Engineering

The key feature of the project is the long-span roof of 70,000 square meters, making it one of the world’s largest roofs without an expansion joint. The roof soars more than 40 meters above floor level. Glass curtain walls and multi-level light wells provide ample natural light, while high-performance glazing and rooftop greenery help reduce solar heat gain. The terminal is cross-shaped in plan to facilitate the quick and organized movement of planes and passengers. The roof is supported by thirty 130-foot columns, spaced at 64 meters in the north–south direction and at 34 meters in the east–west direction. The long-span capabilities of the steel truss structure allow for a feeling of openness to the large processing areas below and maximum flexibility in the arrangement of ticket counters and other necessary processing facilities.

SOM increased the depth of the trusses near the columns, and ran trusses in both an orthogonal grid and a 45-degree grid, resulting in generous spacing and cantilevers of 40 meters along the perimeter. The mega-columns also serve as a hoist mechanism so the entire roof could be constructed without tower cranes — a measure taken in response to site constraints and the close proximity of an existing terminal. In addition, the terminal’s external façade runs 2.92km and the structural design prioritizes modular construction in order to optimize costs and to facilitate an accelerated construction schedule. 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 Head House Roof (HHR) has 28 major skylights and 244 minor skylights. The entire layout of 272 skylights covers over 30,000sqm, resembling a diamond-studded jewel and is the largest skylight ever built in Asia. There are nearly 5698 specially designed ‘Dichroic lenses’ crafted in to this sculpted ceiling to give the closest possible look of the peacock feathers on the floor with mega columns enhancing the design of the roof.

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. While, strategically placed skylights throughout the check-in hall reduce the terminal’s energy usage by 23%.

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