As some people may remember, there was a time when transportation hubs could be quite glamorous. Rather than the sweats and virtual pajamas many travelers wear to get to their destinations nowadays, men suited up and women wore their finest outfits. Old photo albums of my extended family are filled with scenes of transatlantic arrivals and departures, first at ports for ocean liners and later in airport lounges—to wish journeyers either “bon voyage” or “welcome home.”
Needless to say, times have changed. Yet airports, train stations, cruise terminals, and other similar venues can still elicit strong emotions. The sheer volume of people moving through these places promotes chance encounters—some meaningful or memorable, and others, let’s face it, at times a bit menacing.
Josephine Minutillo, Editor in Chief. Photo © Jillian Nelson
The structures themselves could be awe-inspiring. Having lived in Rome and started many rail trips across Europe from there, I never ceased to be impressed by the often architecturally overlooked Termini Station—oddly one of my favorite buildings in the Eternal City—its cantilevered and slickly undulating roof an apt embodiment of speed, movement, and modernity.
Completed in 1950, and designed by two teams of architects, Termini was one of many such structures that ushered in a postwar era celebrating travel. Somehow, over more recent decades, with few exceptions, that celebration has been muted, and once-spectacular designs for transportation hubs became humdrum exercises in shuffling people as efficiently and cheaply as possible.
This issue of RECORD examines recent projects—a cruise ship and bus terminal, a subway headhouse, and major airport overhauls—that attempt to bring some level of dignity back to transportation facilities. LaGuardia Airport, for instance—the condition of which in 2014 then-Vice President Joe Biden famously described as the kind found in a “third-world country”—is an airport I always did my best to avoid using. A few months ago, my return flight to New York landed in LaGuardia, and I was pleasantly surprised. We take a closer look at part of that $8 billion transformation, as well as new or revamped structures across North America and Europe, and in India—where an airport design still considers family members who gather to greet traveling relatives. We also look at examples of obsolete or unsightly infrastructure—from former airports to freeways to landfills—that are being converted into parkland or lushly planted mixed-use developments.
And—who knows?—perhaps this push to upgrade the aesthetics of the contemporary travel experience may influence travelers to sharpen their travel wardrobes.