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In these days of endless airport security lines and pervasive flight delays, it's no wonder air travel is so frequently bemoaned. Take a break from grumbling and click through to admire the artistry and design behind some of the world's most amazing airports.
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TWA Flight Center, JFK Airport, New York City
Flights no longer depart from the hallowed halls of TWA Flight Center at New York's JFK Airport, though the site has been undergoing careful renovations for nearly a decade. Opened in 1962, the terminal was designed by Eero Saarinen for Trans World Airlines with the intention of capturing "the spirit of flight."
Ovahlordx via Wikimedia3 of 27
Winnipeg National Airport, Terminal 2, Canada
Winnipeg National Airport's Terminal 2 was Canada's first free-standing airport building to be LEED certified. It's the only commercial international airport in the province of Manitoba. Famed architect César Pelli, best known for designing the Petronas Twin Towers, devised plans for the airport's main terminal after drawing inspiration from Manitoba's skies and prairies. The result? Loads of natural light pouring in from skylights, an atrium and large windows throughout.
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Madrid-Barajas Airport, Terminal T4, Spain
Designed by architects Antonio Lamela and Richard Rogers, terminal T4 of the Madrid-Bajaras Airport in Spain opened in 2006 to much fanfare. Employing glass panes instead of walls, and making careful use of illumination through the roof's many domes, the 8.2-million-square-foot terminal is meant to give passengers a stress-free start to their journey.
dierk schaefer via Flickr5 of 27
Lyon St. Exupéry International Airport, France
The Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport features a winged (or fan-shaped) entrance design, devised by famed architect Santiago Calatrava. Two enormous steel arches stretch nearly 400 feet wide and 130 feet high, and are thought to represent a bird in flight.
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Marrakech Menara Airport, Morocco
Sleek modern architecture meshes smoothly with traditional Islamic design at Marrakech Menara Airport's Terminal 1. Classic Islamic geometric motifs are designed to filter light through a larger series of concrete diamonds, creating the sense of walking through a futuristic Casbah.
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Wellington International Airport, New Zealand
New Zealand's Wellington International airport is the nation's third busiest flight hub. In 2010, the airport's international terminal was remodeled with a design coined "The Rock," which has garnered acclaim for stepping outside terminal design conventions. The Rock is intended to emulate New Zealand's rugged landscape.
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Beijing International Airport, Terminal 3, China
On the cusp of the 2008 Summer Olympics, Beijing International Airport's Terminal 3 opened to the public, and it was awe-inspiring. Measuring two miles long, the terminal became the second-largest airport terminal in the world (after Dubai International's Terminal 3) and the fifth-largest building in the world.
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Denver International Airport, United States
Denver International's peaked roof, meant to emulate the snow-capped Rocky Mountains in the distance, makes it one of the most easily recognized airports in the United States. A steel cable system similar to the one used on the Brooklyn Bridge supports the sloping roof design.
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Incheon International Airport, South Korea
South Korea's Incheon International Airport gets nods for being one of the world's most well-organized and efficient airports, and since 2005 has annually ranked first in the Airports Council International's list of best airports worldwide. The airport is a veritable playground. Travelers passing through will encounter a golf course, spa, casino, indoor gardens, ice skating rink, Museum of Korean Culture and private sleeping rooms.
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Kansai International Airport, Osaka, Japan
Built on a man-made island off the coast of Osaka, Kansai International Airport features a mile-long terminal designed to resemble an airplane's fuselage with corridors that shoot off the main hallway like wings. The terminal's roof is also shaped like an airfoil, or wing, in an effort to bolster air circulation in the building.
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Bilbao Airport, Spain
Nicknamed "La Paloma," or "the Dove," Bilbao Airport's main terminal does appear to have two symmetrical wings swooping down to a point, or a beak. Designed by famed architect Santiago Calatrava, the terminal opened in 2000 and includes a raised viewing gallery above the baggage claim so people waiting to greet passengers can spot their friends and family below.
BLueFiSH.as via Wikimedia13 of 27
Tempelhof International Airport, Berlin, Germany
Though Tempelhof International Airport closed its doors in 2008, the airport's main terminal — envisioned by a Nazi architect in 1936 — still awes design lovers. The terminal and its limestone facade stretch as an unbroken curve, nearly one-third of a mile in length, creating an imposing form. Tempelhof gained notoriety during World War II when it became the aviation hub for the Berlin Airlift.
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Changi Airport, Terminal 3, Singapore
Singapore's Changi Airport Terminal 3 opened in 2008 with 919 skylights in its roof to allow in natural light and make the terminal feel natural and inviting. To add to the ambience, a 16-foot-high "green wall" with hanging plants and a waterfall was incorporated.
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Samui Airport, Thailand
Travel woes will melt away upon arrival at Samui Airport on the Thai island of Koh Samui. The airport's unusual design features no indoor spaces and is marked by an enormous open-air dome under which passengers can sit and relax. Despite the laid-back vibe, the island airport bustles, handling one million passengers annually.
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Jeddah Hajj Terminal, Saudi Arabia
The Jeddah Hajj Terminal in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, is only open to travelers during the six weeks of the hajj, the annual religious pilgrimage to Mecca. The open-air terminal can hold 80,000 travelers and was built using 210 fiberglass tents. The design allows the hot desert air to cycle upwards, effectively cooling the space below by up to 50 degrees.
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Dubai International Airport, Dubai, UAE
It's little surprise that Dubai, home to architectural extremes like the Burj Al Arab, would have a breathtaking and over-the-top airport. In 2008, the airport opened the $4.5 billion Terminal 3, home to Emirates Airline and (starting in April 2013) Qantas. With 10.7 million square feet of space, the terminal is the largest airport terminal in the world, and the largest building in the world based on floor space. In addition to copious shopping and eating options, the airport also houses Internet and games facilities, prayer rooms, showers, spas, a gym, swimming pool and three hotels.
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Carrasco International Airport, Uruguay
In 2009, Montevideo, Uruguay's main airport, Carrasco International, opened a new terminal designed by Uruguayan architect, Rafael Viñoly. The terminal's new design features a curved roof that dramatically sweeps across 1,200 feet.
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Keflavík International Airport, Leif Eiríksson Air Terminal, Keflavík, Iceland
Named after the legendary Norse explorer, the Leifur Eiríksson Air Terminal at Keflavík International Airport looks like it belongs in the pages of a certain Scandinavian furniture company's catalog. The terminal features hardwood floors, copious amounts of blond wood, bare stone and sprawling windows.
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Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, Thailand
More than a few eyebrows were raised when the photo-sharing platform Instagram announced its list of the 10 most "Instagrammed" locations in the world, and the number one spot went to Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport. Indeed, the airport's design is striking, with elements of the roof creating a wave-like appearance meant to simulate the watershed upon which the airport was originally built.
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Malé International Airport, The Maldives
Terminal? What terminal? At Malé International Airport in the Maldives passengers walk down docks surrounded by the blue waters of the Indian Ocean before boarding float planes to take them to their ultimate destination in the archipelago.
Martin St-Amant via Wikimedia22 of 27
Ushuaia – Malvinas Argentinas International Airport, Ushuaia, Argentina
The world's southernmost international airport, Ushuaia – Malvinas Argentina, is located on the island of Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America. It's most typically used as a gateway to Patagonia and Antarctica. The airport's name implies Argentina's sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, which are called "Islas Malvinas" in Spanish.
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Princess Juliana International Airport, St. Martin
Also known as Saint Maarten International Airport, Princess Juliana International serves the Dutch part of Saint Martin and is a gateway to the Leeward Islands. The airport has garnered worldwide attention not so much for its design as its unusual location: the approach is over water, and planes fly directly above Maho Beach, a tiny strip of sand where onlookers gather to watch strikingly close-up aircraft landings.
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Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia
Designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa, Kuala Lumpur International features an eclectic blend of design elements, including Islamic-style domes and hallway ceilings dotted with tiny spotlights, allowing natural light to filter into the terminal.
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Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong
One of the world's most ambitious airport construction projects, Hong Kong International Airport was built on Chek Lap Kok Island, a once-hilly space that was leveled to 23 feet above sea level to accommodate the airport. The cleared earth and material was then dumped into the sea to increase the island's (and airport's) overall size. Building the airport didn't just alter the island's land; the island's original farming and fishing villages were relocated to Chek Lap Kok Village on nearby Lantau Island.
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Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, The Netherlands
Amsterdam's Schipol Airport has become a favorite among travelers. Many like the high-end retail, lounge and entertainment zone that features a library, "living rooms" with fireplaces and even a casino.
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Vancouver International Airport, Canada
A favorite airport among travelers, Vancouver International Airport has been named the best airport in North America in Skytrax's World Airport Awards several times. The airport features art and sculpture with indigenous themes, as well as top-notch customer care and amenities that go so far as to include health care services like a rehabilitation and wellness center, a dentist's office and a doctor's office.