Airports are the gateway to a city or a country. The International Airports in India leave behind an essence of the region while also being relatable in some aspects. The evolution of airports intertwines with the development of aviation and air travel. From small airstrips to mega airports, the requirements of the city and country as a whole trigger the development of the airport. Since the invention of aeroplanes, the International Airports in India have been developing rapidly and integrating technology for a smooth onboarding process. Cities called Aerotropolis develop around the airport, thus being a catalyst for development.
While the older airports expand or add new terminals nearby, the later ones, called Greenfield Airports, develop on the city’s outskirts. Building from scratch offers opportunities to incorporate eco-friendly and sustainable features to become the International Airports in India we see today. Greenfield airports can implement energy-efficient technologies, renewable energy sources, water conservation measures, and green spaces to minimise their environmental impact.
The curation of the best-designed International Airports In India can be done on the basis of design, planning, facilities, management, etc., which are not categorised from best to worst. It is a potpourri of developing old airports, the latest green airports, and airports under construction, with diverse personalities that tell a story of progress and cultural identity.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, Mumbai, Maharashtra
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai is the second-busiest airport in India. Terminal 2 by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is an international and domestic terminal in addition to Hafeez Contractor’s Santa Cruz Airport and shares the same runway. Its captivating parametric roof with coffered ceiling and arches takes inspiration from a bird’s wing. The airport received Level 3+ Carbon Neutrality in 2017 from Airport Council International and IGBC Platinum-rated status. It also supports the world’s largest art exhibition, featuring over 6,000 art works at a length of 3km.
Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi
Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi is the busiest airport in India and is the largest aviation hub in South Asia. It has three terminals and is the first LEED Gold-rated airport in India, thus paving the way for sustainable airport design in the country. Terminal 3 by HOK Group Inc, Larsen & Toubro, and Mott MacDonald Group was built before the Commonwealth Games 2010 as it was adding immense strain to Terminal 2. Delhi International Airport (DIAL), a public-private consortium led by GMR Group, manages the entire airport.
Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru, Karnataka
Kempegowda International Airport in Bangalore is one of the most technically advanced airports in the world. It is the world’s first terminal in the metaverse, where one can step into BLR Metaport‘s fully immersive, three-dimensional experience. The second terminal by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill has a green landscape around the airport campus. The International Airport was instrumental in developing the city in which it stands. Since the airport’s inception, Devanahalli has undergone a massive transformation. The 1700-kiloliter rainwater storage capacity helped it grow from a city suffering from a water shortage to a thriving community.
Cochin International Airport, Nedumbassery, Kerala
The Cochin International Airport is the first fully solar-powered airport and the first green airport in the world. The United Nations’ highest environmental honour, Champions of Earth, went to Cochin in 2018. Due to the immense congestion, the international flights were shifted to terminal 3, which is adjacent to the old airport. The terminal greets the passengers with courtyards and an enormous timber-sloped roof over an in-built wooden seating area that is reminiscent of the traditional “Charupadi“. Thus, the airport gives a glimpse of Kerala and a sense of place.
Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Hyderabad, Telangana
Located about 22 kilometres from Hyderabad, the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport is the fourth busiest airport in India. It is also the first terminal structure to receive LEED accreditation. Through resplendent gardens and landscaping, designers Nordic Office of Architecture and Arup did not fail to capture the Indian spirit while integrating world-class facilities. The design is ahead of time considering the rapid urbanisation of the city, thus having a capacity to hold about 42 million passengers a year. Its master plan also allows room for future expansion without affecting the neighbourhood or road-rail connectivity.
Chennai International Airport, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
The Chennai International Airport is on the outskirts of Chennai and is one of Asia’s largest green terminals. Since airports define movement by air, a winged bird becomes the concept of the airport. Infusion of vertical gardens perceive an unspoken dialogue between man and space. The architects of Creative Group envisioned an intermodal hub, which is the first of its kind in India. The plan is passenger-friendly, i.e., it provides the shortest travel distance without any visual barriers. The new Golden Terminal, integrates the two terminals, and its style reflects the vibrant cultures of Chennai and Tamil Nadu.
Dabolim International Airport, Dabolim, Goa
Dabolim International Airport is in a strategic location that is in close proximity to the best beaches. The Government of Goa and the Indian Military jointly own the airport, which also serves as a launchpad for the military. The demolition of the old airport, which was under the control of the Indian Navy, made space for an aircraft parking bay. Resembling “The Wave”, it has two terminals and is spread across 1700 acres. It is the 10th busiest airport, not due to the immense number of tourists but for its strong military presence.
Tirupati International Airport, Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh
Tirupati International Airport is an international airport constructed at a low cost, which attracts pilgrims to Venkateswara Temple in Tirumala worldwide. It is an integrated passenger terminal that has a capacity of 700 passengers. Designed by Aadharshila Designs Pvt. Ltd. as part of a design competition, the airport is GRIHA 4-Star certified with several green features. The layered form takes inspiration from Garuda in flight, the eagle carrier of Lord Venkateshwara. The design considers the development of the city and the possibility of future expansions.
Sheikh ul-Alam International Airport, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir
Sheikh ul-Alam International Airport was built by the Airports Authority of India and is in the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir. It takes its name from a Kashmiri patron Saint. Originally, the airport was actively used by the Indian Air Force and was witness to the 1947 Indo-Pakistan War and the 1999 Kargil War. It was only in 2005 that it became an international airport and acted as a civil enclave. The terminal resembles the terrain of the Himalayas, and the curved roof facilitates easy snow removal.
Coimbatore International Airport, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu
Coimbatore International Airport serves the nearby industrial cities of Tiruppur, Erode, and Coimbatore. It is an integrated passenger terminal with a single runway. The design concept by S. Ghosh and Associates was to attain fluidity and dynamism through lighter roofs. The structural strength comes from layered arrangements rather than individual sections. This gives rise to column-free interiors for the airport. Coimbatore airport is 10–11 km from the nearest prominent bus and railway stations. There are plans to expand runways so they can take bigger aircraft and handle more.
Chaudhary Charan Singh International Airport, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
Situated in a state with the most international airports, Chaudhary Charan Singh International Airport is the largest in Uttar Pradesh. The new Terminal 2 is by the Delhi firm of Ar. Sumit and Sudipto Ghosh. The design incorporates both culture and an obligation to the sky. Resembling a paper plane ready to take flight, it explores the unique possibilities of cantilever roofs. The large wing-like cantilevers are 200 metres long, portraying swiftness and lightness. There is a slight bulge in the ceiling, giving the feeling of being under a giant aircraft.
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata, West Bengal
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata is one of the oldest airports in India. Designed by Sikka Associates in collaboration with green designers RMJM and landscape designers Strata, the addition of a new L-Shaped integrated terminal inaugurated in 2013 is able to handle a yearly passenger count of 20 million. The integrated domestic and international terminal has writings of Rabindranath Tagore on the ceiling and internal courtyards. Landrum and Brown and the Airport Authority of India manage the airport and its culturally tuned service facilities.
Trivandrum International Airport, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
Thiruvananthapuram International Airport is an international airport that is the first of its kind in Kerala. Also the fifth international airport in India, Lt. Col. Raja Goda Varman initiated and convinced the Travancore Durbar in 1932. The airport is less than a kilometre from Shanmugham Beach, making it the closest airport to the sea in India. Apart from being a passenger terminal, it is the headquarters of Southern Air Command, the IAF, and the Indian Coast Guard. It also caters to aviation training at the Rajiv Gandhi Academy for Aviation Technology.
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Airport, Ahmedabad, Gujarat
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport is about 9 kilometres north of the heart of Ahmedabad. The expansion of the airport started with a small airstrip built in 1937 that once supported military operations during World War II. It was only in 2000 that it was characterised as an international airport. Singapore-based CPG Corporation designed the new terminal, which took inspiration from the terminal entrance of Changi Airport in Singapore. The facade takes the shape of a kite, which resonates with the popular annual kite festival in Ahmedabad.
Kannur International Airport, Kannur, Kerala
Kannur International Airport is an international airport that serves North Kerala and adjoining districts of Karnataka and Mahe in the union territory of Puducherry. Kannur International Airport Limited (KIAL) organised a Terminal Design Competition to design the existing airstrip in 2013. Ar. Thomas Puthumana won the competition and conceptualised the airport, which KIAL executed. Kannur Airport is one of the few airports in India that has a tabletop runway, where the top of the mountain is cut to form a runway plateau.
The International Airports in India represent the niche culture of the region and catalyse its development. The airport’s architecture is the first impression for someone who visits the city for the first time. Thus, it is important to build more airports that connect cities and nations to make travel more convenient. The International Airports in India is a representation of understanding contexts and challenges in unique ways. For instance, tabletop runways are a solution for rough terrain, which improved tourism and paved the way for development. Thus, airport design must look into sustainable approaches and strategies to give new meaning to development.