Wood serves a practical and aesthetic purpose in Oslo’s new terminal expansion

 

Oslo Airport Terminal expansion is one of those places we wished we could, like Tom Hanks in The Terminal, stay forever. Norway’s newly-expanded airport is not only dubbed the world’s greenest airport, it was also deliberately designed “to create a particular atmosphere… [especially] in areas where passengers spend a lot of time or where they want a certain amount of calm,” said Christian Henriksen, partner and design manager at Nordic Office of Architecture.

Here, wood takes centre stage, fulfilling its purpose as a structural element and design feature. “Wood defines us here in Scandinavia and it would therefore also define Oslo Airport,” Henriksen commented.

Exposed glue-laminated (glulam) beams soar high above the busy ground while large panoramic windows enable passengers to enjoy the landscape around the airport. Many places in the terminal have walls of plants and small water features that recall the natural beauty of Norway. All the materials were meant to be used in as natural a form as possible.

 

 

The architects at Nordic were also a part of Aviaplan, the group behind the original terminal. Finished in 1998, the original terminal was designed to handle 17 million passengers per year.

20 years later, the same firm added a 140,000-square-metre extension and modernised the train station, doubling capacity to 32 million.

But the biggest change is a new 300-metre-long pier that extends out onto the tarmac airside. The rounded pier is held up by glulam arches sourced from Scandinavian forests. The façade is mostly glass to let in as much daylight as possible, while the roof is finished with oak cladding, protected by a UV-resistant paint treatment. The wooden façade gives the pier an attractive aesthetic, but its most important function relates to airport safety.

“A pier that extends out towards the runways can cause problems for the air traffic control tower. The [communication] signals are highly sensitive to distortion and can easily be reflected, for example by metal, which can make the tracking on the ground suffer. But with a wooden façade, the signals die when they hit the pier,” Henriksen said.

Double the size, half the energy

The massive use of wood also met the strict environmental requirements set by the clients. Other green features include low carbon footprint materials such as concrete mixed with volcanic ash and recycled steel. The pier is rounded to minimise the external surface and so save energy. In winter, snow cleared from the runways is stored in an open pit covered with grained timber, which cools the terminal in summer. This reduces the terminal’s annual energy consumption by 2 GWh.

 

The airport has cut carbon emissions by 35 per cent and halved energy consumption while at the same time increasing capacity. It achieved BREEAM “Excellent” rating, a global benchmark for sustainable design.

 

This article was first published in Wood in Architecture Issue 1/2018