Architecturally, the development of the new domestic terminal was a huge challenge, as well as a huge opportunity.
The purpose-built terminal is the largest infrastructural development project Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) has ever undertaken and offered a blank canvas for design.
The layering and general schematics of the building were supplied by ACSA's strategic equity partner, Aeroporti di Roma, an Italian-based international airports management firm. External constraints helped dictate the shape of the building, constraints such as the airside boundary, the road network required to feed the surrounding highways, as well as the proximity to the existing international terminal.
The three level structure houses the arrivals area on the ground floor, departures on the top floor and a retail level filled with shops and restaurants, in the middle.
A key challenge to the architects was to develop a building that was both practical and stylish but without being utilitarian or clinical. A fashionable building will, in due course, become an unfashionable building, so the goal was to create something lasting.
"The interpretation of a design is what dates, so what we have tried to achieve is a good interpretation of a classic," said Karen Mailer of Associated Airport Architects.
ACSA's brief to the architects was to also introduce an African theme. The architects avoided an artificial theme by steering away from applied decoration.
"It's very easy to build a box and then decorate it but that's not what we needed here. It was vital to ensure the theme was integral to the entire design of the building," Mailer said.
The African theme is introduced throughout the new terminal with colours and finishes that include indigenous wood inlays and local granite flooring. Obvious or contrived patterning has been avoided in favour of a subtle application of detail.
A central design element of the new terminal is the generosity of space. The huge, triple volume space offers a high degree of legibility, offering the public an immediate visual understanding of the layering of the terminal.
In line with the latest thinking in airport design, Terminal B encourages a natural movement of passengers and the public, without having to rely heavily on directional signage.
Huge glass windows allow natural light to flood into the terminal so while the facility is a contained "envelope," there is still a sense of the time of day, as well as the weather outside.
Due to the nature of the building, the materials used had to be carefully chosen, to be hardwearing and low maintenance. The architects also had to introduce a pallet of materials that would describe the natural African environment.
"This project presented interesting opportunities such as the need to investigate materials that would meet both the needs of durability and an 'Africaness'," Mailer said.
As the terminal was purpose-built, valuable advertising sites have been carefully designed into the overall structure, ensuring advertisers maximise their exposure and benefit from the clean lines. The building provides an attractive and relatively neutral backdrop to the advertising.
Nothing in the new domestic terminal is haphazard. Stylish air conditioning vents have an aviation feel about them. The huge inclined travelator, the main public circulation point through the terminal, is not only an engineering feat but also an attractive feature. Skylights, expansive views and huge open areas, complete the look.
Associated Airport Architects:
Selby Shiba Architects