Terminal 5, Heathrow Airport

Terminal 5, Heathrow Airport - concept

The scheme that was presented at the public enquiry envisaged a core terminal building 40 metres (130 feet) high, 396 metres (1,300 feet) long and 176 metres (575 feet) wide, topped by a roof that flows over it in giant waves. This roof was supported on four rows of tree-like columns, rising up out of ‘canyon’ lightwells running the length of the entire building, effectively dividing it into three.

Although the public enquiry caused a delay, the design concept remained appropriate throughout the extended process and, most critical of all, it was sufficiently flexible to support the airport well into the future. In order to maximise flexibility, the canyons were shifted to the perimeter and the roof structure with its vast 165 metre (540 foot) span was treated as entirely independent from the interior of the building. This had the advantage of being able to use the roof as a loose-fit covering, allowing the building envelope and the interior to absorb change without the interference of the roof structure.

The final design leads passengers through the building from arrival to embarkation in a logical and legible sequence, offering panoramic views over subsequent steps in the journey and turning the process of negotiating the airport system into an enjoyable event.

All passengers enter the building at the same point on the western side of the departures concourse, regardless of how they travelled to the airport - by train, underground, bus or car. Here, a grand entrance between the terminal building and the forecourt / carpark building breaks the mould of typical airport entrances. High level bridges across the space, and the vertical circulation core from the railway station, provide departing passengers with a dramatic open and light-filled space to make the transition from outside to inside.

The design includes a number of spaces that are memorable for their scale and experience that distinguish Terminal 5 form other major airports. The single span roof, uninterrupted floor plates and glazed facades that provide views over the airfield, provide a spectacular departures space. For arriving passengers, the double-height baggage-reclaim hall and arrivals concourse provide generous, light-filled spaces that appropriately reflect the drama of air travel.

The masterplan comprises a hierarchy of elements that provide the masterplan with the flexibility to respond to changes in requirements. The project will therefore be able to evolve and adjust to incorporate information provided by the dynamic planning process.

The three key passenger zones within the building are treated as major public spaces beneath the large-span arched roof.

Clear glazed facades allow views into and out of the building. Inside, a clear sequence of spaces lead passengers from arrival, through check-in and security to the departure lounges where there are clear views of the aircraft beyond.