The Airport of the Future

Submission: May 01, 2015
RegistrationMay 01, 2015
Language: English
Location: Concept
Prizes1st Prize US$5,000, 2nd Prize US$3,000, 3rd Prize US$2,000
TypeArchitecture Students 



The students’ goal is to imagine the airport terminal building of the future, taking into consideration current and possible technological trends and applying them to the near future.

All submissions should address design, technology, sustainability, and the passenger experience.

Fentress Architects is excited to announce their fourth annual Fentress Global Challenge. The Fentress Global Challenge is an international design competition that was created to engage people worldwide in the exploration of future design possibilities in public architecture. The competition theme changes each year to reflect current issues. For 2015, students around the globe are invited to envision the Airport of the Future.

Winners will gain international exposure and receive cash prizes including a grand prize worth $15,000. Register at www.theairportofthefuture.com



The Airport of the Future competition will showcase imagined possibilities in airport design. The goal is to advance the concept of what an international airport terminal might be in the year 2050.

Technological innovations and sociological expectations constantly drive design forward, and airports are on the cutting edge of this thrust. The aviation industry plays an integral role in the global economy with 2.4 billion passengers and 43 million tons of freight being transported annually. The industry supports 32 million jobs and generates USD$3.5 trillion in economic activity across the globe annually. And it is growing. By 2050, it is estimated that 16 billion passengers and 400 million tons of freight will be flown each year.

In the early days of air travel, airports were called “flying fields” and they were little more than grassy strips with small holding areas for passengers. In the late 1950s, as travel by air became more affordable, airport design advanced to handle larger crowds and heavier planes. The airport construction boom of the 1960s brought with it a romantic architectural style that mirrored the mystique and glamour of air travel, with passengers donning their finest clothing to dine at the airport restaurant before boarding their plane.

From the 1970s to the mid-1990s, however, airports became “people processors” and the romance disappeared. Terrorist attacks and increased regulations turned glass windows into opaque walls, and the need for rapid airport expansion with limited budgets resulted in uninspired design. A traveler could anticipate few opportunities for fast food dining, let alone fine dining, gift shopping, entertainment or relaxation. Airports had become places to pass through, rather than to be in.

In the last 15 years, airports have experienced a resurgence in inspired design. Beautiful terminals with high-end retail and other amenities make a traveler’s layover more pleasant and allow airlines to keep ticket costs down. Globalization is rapidly expanding the need for new airports and airport cities. These future airports will be the cornerstones of tomorrow’s economy, shaping emerging regions in the same way that cities of the past were shaped by their access to seaports and railways.

What is the future of airport design? How will the airport of the future look and function? The 2015 Fentress Global Challenge invites you to answer these questions through design.


Competition Announcement 15 November 2014

Design Submission Deadline 1 May 2015

Winners Announced 1 June 2015

Internship at Fentress Architects Summer 2015


Participants are encouraged to re-envision the terminal building of the future, taking into consideration current technological trends and applying them to the near future. The participant should consider every element of the passenger experience and seek to improve every dimension of the building. The terminal/concourse building should comprise 30 gates with a third of them being international. Things to consider are urbanization, globalization, technological innovations, flexibility, security, adaptability, and the traveler experience from “curbside to airside.”

The site can be anything but must be relevant and should address its context, positioning of the building(s) on the site, and how the design responds to and impacts the site.

The submission with the highest aesthetic quality and the most fully developed vision will receive the grand prize.

All conceptual design submissions must address the following:


Is the architecture aesthetically pleasing? Is the design flexible and adaptable? Does it work in the proposed site and does it take into account how passengers move though the building? How might the design be a model for the airport of the future?


What technological innovations might the airport of the future employ? How do computer systems and new software fit into the design?


What sustainable strategies might the airport of the future employ? How might this affect the design?

Passenger Experience

How might the passenger experience change in the future? Take into account the different aspects of the terminal building as a “place” or a “non place.”


Fentress Architects has designed some of the world’s most innovative and award-winning airport terminals. Their commitment to people and their communities is integrated into every terminal they design. In 2010, Curtis Fentress, founder of Fentress Architects, was awarded the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) Thomas Jefferson Award, the highest award in public architecture, recognizing “a portfolio of accomplishments that evidences great depth while making a significant contribution to the quality of public architecture.” The Thomas Jefferson Award is a testament to Fentress’ vision, design philosophy and excellence in the field of public architecture. As part of that special celebration, Fentress Architects launched the Fentress Global Challenge to further advance the pursuit of timeless public architecture.


1st Place

US$15,000 prize and a certificate (US$15,000 prize includes US$5,000 cash, four-week paid internship at Fentress Architects, airfare and lodging.)

The winning student will gain exposure to the architectural industry with an internship at an award-winning international architectural firm. The intern may assist on project teams, model making and marketing. An intern from outside the U.S. is responsible for obtaining necessary visa and paperwork; Fentress Architects will provide a letter stating an offer for internship. Internship details will be arranged one-on-one with the winning student.

2nd Place

US$3,000 cash prize and a certificate

3rd Place

US$2,000 cash prize and a certificate



Date: February 28, 2015