What might the Solidarity Transport Hub Poland look like?

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An insight into the new architectural concepts of the airport

Concepts such as a terminal in the shape of a triangle, with an amber roof or integrated with the airport-city railway system – were proposed by architects to the investor of the Solidarity Transport Hub Poland. They will serve as the inspiration during the preparation of the master plan for the airport, which is to be commissioned early next year.

Visualisations and animations in high resolution can be downloaded at https://we.tl/t-6qUHyOR313

The Solidarity Transport Hub Poland (STH) and the British Embassy in Poland invited the designers from Woods Bagot, Populous and KPF to Warsaw for architectural design workshops. The designers were encouraged to share their ideas for the initial concept of the STH.

For the second time, we have invited architects with a rich design portfolio of implemented investments to ask them what Solidarity Airport might look like. The timing is not accidental. Until the end of October, we shall be consulting the technical and operational requirements of the new airport with companies and institutions that will be involved in future airport operations”, says Mikołaj Wild, Government Plenipotentiary for Solidarity Transport Hub Poland.

We hope that the results of work by British architects will be useful for the company in building a new airport in central Poland and will ultimately be beneficial to future users. I am glad that we could facilitate contacts between the STH and the design industry”, says Lech Kaczanowski, Director of the Department for International Trade from the British Embassy in Poland.

Below you will find a description of each of the new architectural concepts.

KPF

The designers of the KPF studio, who worked on the planning of airports in Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam and Seoul proposed that – for the sake of the convenience of STH passengers – the distance between the central part of the airport and the outermost airport gates must not be too far. Their goal was to shorten check-in and transfer time. As a result, they proposed terminals in the shape of a triangle: the larger one in the first stage of the construction of the STH planned for the end of 2027, and the second as a smaller terminal as part of future expansion (if needed).

The triangular shape of the terminal is the best possible option from an architectural point of view and brings many benefits. This means convenience of movement, shortening of transfer times and effortless adaptation of space. What is more, triangle is a beautiful shape – reminiscent of clasped hands and associated with solidarity that is so close to Polish identity”, explains architect Jens Hardvendel from KPF.

Through its shorter side, the triangular terminal would be connected to the planned high-speed line railway station connecting Warsaw, the STH and Łódź (also Poznań and Wrocław in due course). According to the KPF studio, travel time and seamless transfers from train to plane – and vice versa – can determine the success of the new airport.

The interior of the STH terminal has been designed as a spacious and well-lighted hall with a transparent roof. Orange skylights of irregular shapes have been installed on the roof, reminiscent of traditional Polish amber, whose deposits can be found in the Baltic Sea. Trees and flower pots with plants inside the terminal function as a “stress-relieving” element. “If you spend two or three hours at the airport due to a change, you can then appreciate solutions that improve passenger comfort”, KPF architects explain.

An interchange port can help build a positive image for a given country, an example of which is Changi Airport in Singapore. Warsaw is the heart of Europe, but, what is more, it is also the centre of a region where there is no large hub, meaning that there is an evident market niche that Poland can fill”, says Mustafa Chehabeddine, Planning Director at KPF. “As designers, we highly appreciate the fact that the airport will be built from scratch, as the so-called greenfield investment. This facilitates the use of modern solutions and gives architects a wide range of possibilities”, he underlines.

Populous

According to the designers of Populous’ offices in London, the STH should be an “Airport City”. The studio refers to its experience in the design of airport facilities such as Changi in Singapore and De Gaulle in Paris, but also sports facilities, e.g. stadiums for the London Olympics in 2012.

In the concept of Populous, the journey through the airport begins when the passengers disembark from the integrated train station located on the lower floors of the port. The airport facilities are located on the highest level, while the middle floors are to be open to the outside, creating public spaces inspired by traditional Polish public meeting places such as Warsaw markets.

Travellers arriving at the airport will have a choice to go directly to a security check or leave their luggage and use many attractions of “Airport City” also located in a public area in front of the restricted area of the port. “Our project is to go beyond creating usual airport “transition space” that people simply pass on their way to take a flight”, explain Populous architects.

Architects provide the STH with a smart design of space that will allow the needs of different groups of travellers to be met. You can choose between places to relax and rest (like the SPA and massage centre, or comfortable places to read), sport facilities (gym and swimming pool), but also for work and business meetings, which will be held in airport conference rooms. The airport’s entertainment area will offer digital, interactive and VR solutions (within the virtual reality) such as a platform for e-sport games.

The designers promise a thoughtful location for the commercial space, which will contain stores from various industries, with e-commerce shopping windows and the possibility to shop online. Restaurants with a view of the runway and open terraces will serve as another attraction. In the terminal, Populous architects would provide places for families with children, offering both indoor and outdoor playgrounds.

Based on opinion polls of airport users, we gathered a huge amount of data in various parts of the world that allowed the development of a user experience map. It takes into account the expectations of different groups of travellers towards each stage of their stay at the airport. When designing an airport, we analyse the flow of passenger streams in detail and their behaviour and, only on this basis, we propose the best solutions”, says Brett Wightman, the Architect Manager of the Asia Pacific Aviation group at Populous.

The designers point out that the airport concept they have presented is, for the time being, a preliminary version and at a further stage there may be elements referring to “the spirit of the place”: Poland as well as Central and Eastern Europe.

Woods Bagot

The architects of this studio are guided by the motto: The airport of the future has not yet been designed. This means that the airport concept should be flexible, modular, hence should the design of future airport to be adaptable to new technologies.

Architects of Woods Bagot were enraptured by the Polish landscape and the nature changing with the seasons. In their concept, distinctive ceilings appeared in the terminal, reminiscent of tree trunks in Polish forests. The glass walls of the terminal are there to allow the green space around the airport to be admired and help passengers relax before their journey.

As the designers say, when creating a concept, the uniqueness of the place is of key importance. Therefore, in their opinion, the Solidarity Airport terminal should emphasise Polish hospitality so as to be open not only to travellers but also to any visitors who come to the airport to spend time, have lunch, meet friends or do shopping.

We want the design to be unique, to stimulate the senses but, at the same time, to be practical and facilitate the ease of travelling. All of this so that Solidarity Airport may become a place where you just want to return. We travel more and more for business or pleasure and flying becomes a lifestyle. The airport of the future should, therefore, be a temporary escape from stress and everyday problems. It should not only be a place to wait for a plane but also a relaxation zone“, underlines Cliff Bollmann, Woods Bagot Regional Transport Solutions Director.

Woods Bagot, just like Populous, monitors data on passengers when designing an airport. They are interested in how travellers move around the terminal, where they stop and what solutions they find difficult to navigate. Only after defining the paths that individual groups of passengers follow does the studio design accurate solutions. “Intuitively finding the way to the right gate, regardless of the way one arrives at the airport (i.e. by train, bus or car), is how you can recognise a well-designed airport”, explain the architects from Woods Bagot.

The opportunity to design from scratch, like the greenfield investment – a completely new airport which could become a key transfer point in Central and Eastern Europe – is a huge challenge but also a great opportunity for each architectural firm. A railway system that will allow passengers to quickly reach the airport is of key importance. Solidarity Airport has all the features of an airport of the future”, says architect Jonathan Leah from Woods Bagot.

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The workshops were a fruitful combination of experience and the vision of architectural studios with the investor’s knowledge and expectations. This, as well as previous meeting, were deeply inspiring and served as a source of ideas when creating strategies and designing the future airport despite the fact we are not obliged to use any of the presented architectural concepts in advance. We are currently continuing preparations for the airport planning process”, says Franciszek Ryczer, Director of the Design and Engineering Office of the STH Airport Component.

This was the second edition of the Polish-British STH architectural workshop. The first, which took place at the end of June this year, was attended by the following studios: Zaha Hadid Architects, Foster+Partners, Chapman Taylor, Grimshaw, Benoy and Pascall+Watson. The result of that meeting was innovative studies that became a source of inspiration for planning work at the STH.

As a part of the airport planning, STH (the CPK Company) completed the first stage of strategic consultations – or arrangements of airport definition under the STH Program – with investment industry partners (carriers, infrastructure managers, handling companies, cargo operators, forwarding companies, fuel suppliers, etc.). STH has received over a thousand comments and suggestions regarding the infrastructure of the planned airport, including aircraft, passenger, luggage, cargo and technical facilities etc. It resulted in a 350-page strategic brief which is currently being consulted as part of more detailed arrangements until the end of October. The number of entities taking part in the consultations has increased and interested parties can apply by registering on the company’s website.

Regardless of the airport’s assumptions, air carriers also provide their opinions. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), in cooperation with STH Airport Consultative Committee (ACC) was appointed to support the planning of a new airport at the end of May. The first meeting took place in July in Warsaw. The IATA invited all interested regular, low-cost and cargo carriers to the committee.

In August, the STH (the Centralny Port Komunikacyjny Company) announced the first major railway tender: for nature inventories for new railway lines leading to Solidarity Airport. Offers will open in the coming days and the contract will be signed in the autumn. The estimated value of the order is over PLN 26 million. Inventories are necessary during the stage of obtaining environmental decisions that precede obtaining a location decision and building permit.

As part of the STH railway section, the second edition of Regional Strategic Consultations has started to make preliminary arrangements for the course of railway “spokes” with Voivodes, Marshals and Presidents of the seven capitals of the counties: Upper Silesia, Lesser Poland, Świętokrzyskie, Podkarpackie, Lublin, Warmian-Masurian and Podlasie. In July and August, such meetings were held in Warsaw, Łódź, Poznań and Wrocław.

At the turn of 2019 and 2020, the STH plans to appoint a strategic and technical advisor i.e. an international entity with investment experience in the field of design, construction and management of hubs. The advisor’s task will be the ongoing cooperation with the company and its substantive support at every stage of the project. At the beginning of next year, STH (the CPK Company) will commission the General Plan for the Solidarity Airport, the so-called Master Plan. It will include, among others: air traffic forecasts, dimensioning of the planned STH infrastructure and a preliminary plan for its location, details of construction stages and the final business model of the new airport.

In July, thanks to a decision made by the Prime Minister of Poland, Mateusz Morawiecki, the STH was co-financed with PLN 300 million, which is the effect of the acquisition of new shares by the State Treasury. The government recognised the STH not only as a strategic project for the development of Poland, but also as a profitable investment. According to a report by PwC from April this year, the Polish aviation market has one of the largest growth potentials throughout Europe and the construction of this hub near Warsaw would be justified by traffic forecasts and the assumed return on the investment rate. According to a study by Baker McKenzie and Polityka Insight from May this year, the establishment of the STH could result in Poland gaining 4% to 7% of GDP growth.

Warsaw, 13/09/2019.

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