SOM completes “terminal in a garden” at Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport
Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall

SOM completes “terminal in a garden” at Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport

1 May 2024  •  News  •  By Gerard McGuickin

International and interdisciplinary architecture, design, and engineering firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) has reimagined the conventional airport experience in its design for Terminal 2 of Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport in southern India. Envisaged as a “terminal in a garden”, the landscaped transport hub is inspired by Bengaluru’s reputation as India’s “garden city” and rethinks the architectural homogeneity of many of the world’s airports.

photo_credit Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall
Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall
photo_credit Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall
Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall

The new 255,000-square-meter (2,744,797-square-feet) terminal is a creative nod to Bengaluru’s rich history and culture and at the same time a forward-looking enterprise. On the landside of Terminal 2, a new 123,000-square-meter (1,323,961-square-feet) “multimodal transit hub” serves as the nexus of public transport for the whole airport. This T-shaped, two-level outdoor plaza seeks to reimagine an airport’s role in the city — by incorporating outdoor retail, event spaces, and entertainment areas, it acts as a destination to be enjoyed by local residents and travelers alike.

photo_credit Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall
Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall
photo_credit Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall
Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall

The indoor-outdoor experience begins at this hub, with the gardens from Terminal 2 flowing onto the plaza. “From this transit hub, through the entrance, and extending to the gates, the terminal is both humanist and rooted in nature,” says SOM. “Throughout the complex, interior plantings, exterior gardens, and rich natural materials weave the experience of nature into the traveler’s journey.” The verdant spaces with green walls and hanging gardens that create a “terminal in a garden” were designed in collaboration with landscape architects Grant Associates and designers Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla.

photo_credit Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall
Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall
photo_credit Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall
Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall

The terminal’s main complex (containing arrivals, check-in, security, baggage reclaim, and retail) and a separate structure that houses the departure gates are connected by an expansive, 90-meter-wide (295-feet-wide) outdoor “forest belt”. “This lush landscape is replete with indigenous flora, multilevel meandering paths, and two-story pavilions that are clad in bamboo and inspired by traditional Indian cane weavings,” says SOM. The nature-focused experience is enhanced by the use of native flora selected from a number of ecological habitats throughout India. The environment provides a reflective and calm oasis for departing passengers within the hustle and bustle of an international airport. A variety of hanging plants and skylights that filter light through delicate bamboo latticework complement the forest belt’s natural aesthetic and rich vegetation. Custom furnishings made with traditionally woven rattan alongside locally sourced ivory brown granite and umber-red bricks, adds to the terminal’s overall sense of earthiness, warmth,  and comfort.

photo_credit Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall
Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall
photo_credit Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall
Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall

The ceiling structure’s orthogonal form is a departure from the more common curving airport roof structure. Constructed from layers of cross-laid engineered bamboo, the ceiling’s long eaves shade the outdoor plaza. “The structural system of Terminal 2 was designed with two primary goals: to achieve sustainability through structural efficiency and economy through modularity,” explains SOM. “The result is one of the lightest terminal roofs in the world at this scale, made entirely out of domestically produced materials and built with local construction technology.” The roof above the check-in and retail halls consists of long-span steel moment frames — these frames are supported by steel columns spaced 18 meters (59 feet) apart. The columns are made up of four individual steel posts that are clad in bamboo and linked together, creating a sense of lightness in the structure. “Because air travel is a constantly evolving industry, the consistency of the grid of columns will also allow for utmost flexibility to accommodate changes over time,” says SOM. The studio adds: “The rectilinear form of the transit hub and Terminal 2 make for an exceptionally efficient use of the site, enabling flexible aircraft parking, uniformity among the gates, and modularity in the terminal’s construction.”

photo_credit Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall
Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall
photo_credit Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall
Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall

The structural system in the gate areas is made up of long-span trusses and columns placed at the edges, ensuring walkways and sight lines remain clear. The building’s base has a uniform grid of reinforced concrete moment frames. In the baggage reclaim and arrival halls, where foot traffic is at much higher levels, large column-free spaces help to improve functionality while tall windows brighten what are usually gloomy areas. The terminal’s overall structural design successfully integrates the lush internal and external landscape as well as skylights and hanging planters. 

photo_credit Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall
Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall
photo_credit Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall
Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall

SOM’s approach to the design of Kempegowda International Airport’s Terminal 2 incorporated sustainability and wellness from the outset. The terminal is the largest in the world to have been pre-certified as LEED Platinum by the U.S. Green Building Council. It also received a Platinum certification from the Indian Green Building Council in recognition of sustainable architecture and design. Sustainable features include extensive solar shading, smart building systems, and the use of renewable materials. The terminal will run on renewable energy; rainwater from across the airport will be harvested, treated, and reused, with indoor and outdoor gardens being irrigated by the water harvested on-site. Two “lagoons” on the transit hub’s southern side will recycle the airport’s stormwater run-off and contribute to the general sense of serenity.

photo_credit Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall
Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall
photo_credit Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall
Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall

Inspired by the boulders and waterways of the region, waterfalls in the terminal’s retail area provide focal points while also cooling the indoor temperature. Landscape architects Grant Associates explains that the terminal’s forest belt will “help to passively cool the spaces around the terminal, manage surface water run-off, and deliver a rich, biodiverse forest microclimate.”

photo_credit Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall
Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall
photo_credit Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall
Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall