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18 October 2010

Floored at the airport

TERMINAL 3 of Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) comes across as “world-class”: soaring industrial look, superb check-in procedures, convenient directional signs (for an airport this big). And then the expansive pre-departure area opens up, revealing an endless spread of carpeting. I shiver. In horror.

The effect of the carpet is unexpected, unimaginative. Geometric shapes loop and pile onto each other to create waves of browns and creams (with pitifully little splotches of red). Browns! The last time I saw brown carpeting was in the now defunct Syvel’s Department Store in Makati City way back in the late 1980s; back then, the concept already looked tired. If IGIA attempts to symbolize the deserts of northern India with this design, it’s a failure. It resembles a huge, swampy ocean of dying, dead, decaying algae. The last I checked, northern India—let alone India itself—has no ocean of dying, dead, decaying algae.

Thankfully, there’s salvation at the immigration area. A gigantic wall mural filled with 3-foot-round copper bowls highlights a series of huge fiberglass mudras (ancient Indian finger postures). Now that is impressive. It’s ethnic, innovative, visually delightful, and totally appropriate as a “Welcome to India” gesture. They should have used a similar variant at the departure area. Instead, we get a huge swamp to bid us “Farewell from India.”

There’s an eternal wealth of design inspiration in northern India, from the bright textile colors of Rajasthan and Punjab to the rhythmic landscape contrasts of Gurgaon and the Himalayas. Terminal 1 (the domestic airport) of IGIA leveraged on this by creating iconic graphics based on Delhi’s urban skyline, from the Red Fort minarets to the Lotus Temple. The impact is as modern as the airport itself, and it remains memorable. This is amongst the many reasons this terminal remains one of my favorites.

Not with Terminal 3. Algae, anyone?

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