The Kansai International Airport designed by architect Renzo Piano is a very fascinating and unique building. It construction combines a man-made island, a high-tech new age looking structure and creative architectural design to create one of the biggest and most expensive airports in the world as seen to right in (Figure-1a). Human use of Kansai Airport is best expressed by the lecture topics discussed in class that include: Designation and Organization of Use, Architectural Determinism, Humanism at a Personal Scale, and Humanism at the Scale of Neighborhoods / Communities/Bureaucracies and Meaning in Architecture.
In the Professor Speck’s class lecture over Designation and Organization of Use, there are many themes that I feel parallel with the design of Kansai International Airport. In lecture Professor Speck said that the overall environment a building is in encourages both the behavioral aspects and the physical environment, which in turn alters the shape behavior of the building. This statement correlates perfectly to Kansai Airport, because first of all the building is built of the coast of Osaka, Japan on a made-island.
So before the building is built there is already a sense of behavioral and physical difference that sets it apart from other buildings. According to the lecture space is designated for three reasons. The first reason being the practicality of the designated space, then the injection of certain cultural values and taboos and finally the intrinsic human need to claim pace- intervals and community. Also, he said that when architects are planning the zoning for building they consider time, efficiency and machines.
Kansai Airport was built because of a need for a big international airport; however, Piano had to find an alternate location due to the crowdedness of the Osaka Bay area. Thus, he used the theme of designation and organization use to come to the conclusion of a manmade island. Piano decision for the island can be compared to early American houses expressed in the book The Place Houses. In the book the authors describe how the early houses in New England, Virginia and Deep South differed in design to help adapt to there environment.
However, after Piano solved the problem of where the airport would be built he still had to decide how long to make the island so it could house the massive structure. The final decision was for the island to be four kilometers long and one kilometer wide. The Phaidon Press describes this well in the book On Tour with Renzo Piano when they write, “Projects such as Kansai International Airport are so large in scale that they are almost impossible to grasp. ”(p. 7).
The size of the island is seen from an aerial view above in (Figure 2-a). Architectural Determinism, as mentioned by Professor Speck, played an important role in the design and construction of the Kansai Airport. The interior of the building is very easy to navigate around. Transparent glass helps calm people down and at the same time speed up the process of arrival and departure. The long and narrow design allows for a nearly infinite field of vision, creating a stress free and carefree environment.
This is described well in the book Renzo Piano when Emilo Pizzi writes, “The desire to maximize transparency between the various areas allocated to embarkation and arrival procedures mans that precedence is given at every point to the passengers need to find their way, as well as enabling them to see the planes parked in front of the building through windows. ” (p. 228). Rather than some buildings where people can feel like a needle in hay stack and get lost easily, Kansai International is very easy to navigate through even with its massive size.
The transparency of the interior that results in easy and efficiency of movement from one place to another is apparent in (Figure 3-a) right and above. The next issue presented in lecture related to the Kansai Airport is Humanism at a Personal Scale. The assortment of different kinds of plant life inside the terminal give let the airport connect with the people walking through it. The plants help to offset the cold, unwelcoming feeling that is given off by the vast amount of steel, high ceiling and open spaces. Also helping to offset this unwelcoming feeling is the beautiful view of the Osaka Bay.
The large glass windows combined with sun reflecting off the water allows a lot of natural light into the terminal. As expressed in the book The Place of Houses natural light helps give a warm vivid feeling to room that will stay in our minds long after we walk out of that room. Another small but import feature of Kansai Airport is the small signs that give directions. While all airports have these signs, they are especially important particularly in this massive terminal. Convenience of restaurants and stores also helps the airport to connect to the people walking through it on a more personal scale.
This range of activities helps everyone that is arriving or departing feel a little bigger in such a enormous place. All of the small tributaries from the restaurants, stores, etc. lead to a “canyon” area that is the focal point of the terminal. Again this is to try and make arrival and departure run more smoothly. This is explained well in the book Renzo Piano when Emilo Piano writes, “Inside, the different levels convene into the “canyon,” a tall atrium occupying the fall of the height of the building, which acts as a sorting point for those arriving or disembarking off the planes. ” (p. 28). The importance of focus is also cited in the book The Place of Houses, which says that the “focus” of a room is one of the most important and critical characteristics, because they (foci) are meant help to organize the room around the center of interest. In this case is canyon is both the center of interest and the “gateway” to the rest of the terminal. In (Figure 4-a) right and above one can clearly see how the “canyon” along with the massive signs help to make Kansai International Airport more manageable and how it helps to cater to people on a more humanistic and personal scale.
Humanism at the Scale of Neighborhoods/Communities/Bureaucracies is the next issue I will discuss and its connection with the Kansai International Airport. I think that buzzing, busy atmosphere makes the people in the terminal feel warm and jovial. While it could be argued that to many persons walking scurrying through the airport at the same time could be disturbing and annoying, I think that like the plants, stores and restaurant the sea of people helps to fill the gigantic inside space of the terminal.
However, if Kansai were compared to a city I would definitely compare it to one of the larger metropolises in the US, simply because of number of people and the crowded feeling it gives off. I think that the feel in the terminal would be like an exaggerated effect of what west campus is like during the afternoon of a school day. Both require a lot of walking and there is almost no opportunity to drive an automobile through either. Although I do not believe that Kansai Airport is necessarily a bad environment, it is certainly not a nurturing one.
In lecture Professor Speck pointed out that there are eight principles of nurturing communities. They are as follows, convenience, wide range of articles, wide range of activities, sense of human presence, personal human scale, variety of visual experiences, freedom from intrusion of disturbance and natural relief. In my opinion Kansai Airport satisfies all of them except for intrusion of distraction, which is definitely does not satisfy because of the mass amounts of people.
Emilo Pizzi explains this well in Renzo Piano when we he writes, “The place seems to evoke the turmoil of Japanese cities, but also the spirit of a millenary civilization…” (p. 228). Although Kansai is not terrible as far as its Humanism at the Scale of Neighborhood/Communities/Bureaucracies is concerned it is definitely not as personable as the examples given in lecture, such as Kresege College in California, Byker, Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England, Tapiola New Town, Finland or the Crown Fountain, Millennium Park, Chicago.
The final issue that Professor Speck discussed about in lecture was the Meaning of Architecture. The issue begins with the visual culture progression in the past fifty years leading to both greater reading comprehension and greater visual comprehension; architecture had to progress as well. Thus, architects started to use certain ways to “communicate” these ways of communication include Literal Direct Communication (LDC), Literal Indirect Communication (LIC) and Abstract. An example of LDC is a billboard of a cow with the caption “eat more,” so physically the meat is depicted.
An example of LIC would be a picture of Bevo with the caption “We’re Texas. ” Finally Abstract is defined as depicting certain feeling, colors, shapes, etc. I believe that Kansai International Airport is a combination of LDC and Abstract, because it looks like an airport with runways, planes, etc. but also is made of very unique shapes that set it apart from any other building. The uniqueness of Kansai that make it abstract are demonstrated well in Renzo Piano when Emilo Pizzi writes, “From the air, the building looks like a shining flag that cheerfully greets the traveler from the vast artificial island.
The image stays in the mind when, having landed, the plane comes to a halt in front of the large metallic facade of the building. ” (p. 224). A visual Kansai is flag-like structure and its Abstract communication is clearly depicted in (Figure 5-a) below. In conclusion, Professor Speck discussed many issues in lecture that distinguished the human and personal use of buildings all over the globe. The issues consisted of : Designation and Organization of Use, Architectural Determinism, Humanism at Personal Scale, Humanism at the Scale of Neighborhoods/ Communities/Bureaucracies and Meaning in Architecture.
These issues/topics are especially vital in expressing the personal and human architectural use of Kansai International Airport. Theses issue give a small sample of truly how creative and unique Kansai Airport’s Architect Renzo Piano is and how impressive and world renounced Kansai International is by both world-class architects and just the every day observer alike. This airport with its manmade island and unique high-tech look will always be remembered and will mostly definitely used as a model for airports and other buildings in the future.