Airport Landscape

“If the erasure of conventional boundaries is the most salient spatial feature of the late-twentieth-century condition, the airport may be taken as its most perfect landscape expression.” – Denis Cosgrove, 1990


Given the rapid growth of air travel that came alongside the great expansion of cities, many airports have since become obsolete, underutilized, and subsequently abandoned. Reasons for this include insufficient size of facilities, locations that became unfavorable for airport operations, decommissioning of military uses, and the functional obsolescence of buildings. With a database of over 1800 decommissioned airfields around the globe, we claim that the abandonment of airports is a pervasive phenomenon globally. Within a decade, hundreds of urban airports will cease operations. What will be done with these flat, concrete, highly complex sites—many of them in the center of cities—once they are no longer needed for air travel? The Airport Landscape Initiative gathers and examines contemporary design proposals for the ecological enhancement of operating airfields and the conversion of abandoned ones.

The Office examines the airport as a central site and case study for the practice of landscape and ecological urbanism conveyed through a variety of disciplinary perspectives including: exhibition (2013) and publication (2016) titled, Airport Landscapes: Urban Ecologies in the Aerial Age, with Sonja Dumpelmann, and two research publications Airfield Manual: Field Guide to the Transformation of Abandoned Airports (2017), and the Airfield Manual: The Case of the Mendoza Aeroparque (2017). Recommendations are not considered as design projects but as principles conveyed through design scenarios. For example, the Airfield Manual compiles case study strategies and best practices for the conversion of decommissioned airports for a variety of new uses. Written for an audience of civic, business, and political leaders as well as for directors of aviation, engineers, and managers, Airfield Manual offers an executive summary of the issues and options attendant to the ownership, management, deactivation, and decommissioning of the airport site.

Project Team: Charles Waldheim (PI), Sonja Dümpelmann, Pedro Aparicio, Sara Favargiotti, Matthew Moffitt, Lane Rubin, Ruben Segovia, Dana Shaikh Solaiman, and David Zielnicki.