Voicing Landscape Experience: Designing Infrastructural Adjacencies from a Grounded Perspective
The master-plan released by Wellington Airport calls for growth. The passenger numbers will grow, the airport will grow, the revenue will grow, the local economy will grow, Wellington will grow. However, Wellington International Airport faces the same need as many other airports before it has; more land.
The airport suggests expanding the eastern and western apron, a new international terminal, and a 300m extension to the runway stretching south, further into Lyall Bay. At the time of this work, Wellington Airport has withdrawn its proposal to revise to meet new international aviation guidelines but has made clear it will reapply.
A common consensus is that the airport landscape is a generic typology, repeated across the globe, with little regard for the pre-existing conditions. Although this disregard to the on-the-ground is not a phenomenon unique to airports, the vast operational configurations of airports elevates these occurrences' impacts. My fieldwork shows that whilst the imposed infrastructure itself may be generic when it is located in a specific location it produces rich variations of local conditions, experiences and behaviours, which are obscured by the greater imposition and have almost entirely been ignored.
Wellington Airport, tied in so closely with the city's urban fabric, is a complex problem. Concerns around the expansion, as they always do, focus on then negative impact on the surrounding context. So as Wellington International Airport looks to become that bit more international, how can these expansions be used for the airport to become that bit more local?
Instead of making the airport itself more local, perhaps it is more useful to ask, how can the airport become a contributor to locality? The strangeness and oddity of the infrastructural landscape seem to offer something that can highlight the uniqueness of the locality around the airport edge.
To explore this, the edge conditions of Wellington Airport offer a unique opportunity. Its urban location and tight physical constraints provide an obscure yet rich set of edge conditions and the suggested expansions to consider; how could these new edges change?
Airport landscapes can often become exaggerated and oversized, partly for the benefit of aerial perspective. This investigation narrows attention to the periphery around the airport. This opens up the ability to test designs at the human scale. These spaces are often considered leftover spaces or industrial wasteland, a by-product of the non-place entity that is the airport.
However, to describe these places as leftover seems reductivist and a gross over-simplification of the nuanced experienced that they can offer. Exploring these contrasts provides a useful lens to consider the airport as a possible driver of locality.