Don't let the tail wag the dog

When Christian Henriksen and his team launched themselves into into the project of designing the new expansion of Oslo Airport, all he could think about was a dog's tail.

Story Christian Henriksen, Partner in Nordic Project Oslo Airport Expansion
The existing structure has inspired, not inhibited our thinking, or restricted our ideas Christian Henriksen

"Ha ha, I don't know if it's true that this was all I thought about back then, but yeah, we were very aware of the expression 'don't let tail wag the dog'," laughs Henriksen and elaborates, "What we meant was that we shouldn't let the new expansion alter the holistic impression of the entire airport, keeping the extended terminal building as the main hub. The existing structure has inspired, not inhibited our thinking, or restricted our ideas. But this is not enough - we also wanted something that would point to the future and create a new architectural experience. It all contributes to the identity of the airport.”

Usually when airports are expanded, this is done by adding on to the extremities, creating further distance between the central hub and the gates. This disrupts the logistical flow in the entire airport, making for a busier and altogether unfriendlier stay. Nordic concentrated on the heart of the airport. 

Hub is where the heart is

"We call the central hub the heart, because that's what it really is. If you look at passengers as the life blood of an airport, then all arteries pass through the central hub. So we thought it would be a good idea to connect directly to the heart instead of leading people on long walks to the fingers and toes of the airport."

We call the central hub the heart, because that's what it really is

The result, a pier that extends from the middle of the existing building, is as simple as it is ingenious. It greatly increases the airport's capacity, without affecting the passengers in a negative way. It also integrates nicely with the existing building as well as being a fine piece of architecture in its own right.

"I think the tubular shape adds something of value to the entire airport. It is very sustainable in the sense that it has minimal surface to the external environment, and the complex connection negotiates a change of forms between the existing terminal and the new pier. It's a pleasant and inviting shape that is vaguely futuristic, and I think people will appreciate it as good, functional and aesthetic", says Henriksen. "It was a bold choice to go for that shape – I mean, going square would have been a safer bet – and I'm happy that our contractors saw the architectural qualities in it." 

Talk is cheap

Boldness, or courage, is something that preoccupies Henriksen and he completely disagrees with the notion that a big company like Nordic is the "safe" choice.

"I think one of the dimensions with Nordic that people rarely are aware of, is the amount of courage it takes to operate on our level. You see, in my opinion, true courage is related to your ability to perform. It doesn't take much courage to dream up fantastic shapes and designs for buildings, just ask any five-year-old with crayons. But to actually draw it, plan it and see it through, now that's a completely different matter."

When Nordic won the contract for the new extension of the international airport in Oslo, Norway, they won it because of that hallmark combination of architectural courage and a well documented track record for being able to see the whole project through in a reliable way. 

Tried and tested

"We never set out thinking we wanted to build something spectacular – we're not really into those grandiose projects that never leave the drawing board. Instead, we're driven by a sincere wish to create great architecture that represents a solution to people's needs."

One of the reasons that Nordic is preferred by big developers around the globe, is their methodological approach. According to Henriksen, there's nothing unusual or ingenious in the method itself – it's the way it is integrated into the process that makes all the difference.

"Our method is actually pretty standard – architects often work in this way. But we have put it into a system which requires that we explore all options before any conclusion is drawn. Also, our perspective differs somehow, in the respect that our point of view is always that of the end user. Deep insight into the needs and challenges of the people who will use our architecture on a daily basis is the mental foundation for every project we're involved in."

Oslo airport will serve more than 30 million passengers a year, and the need for an airport that is intuitive and simple to use is very important.