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Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai, India

Issue 79 June/July 2014 : Architecture : Airport

Architect: SOM Lighting Design: BPI

Mumbai has a long history of infatuation with aviation from the derring-do of the Bombay Flying Club in the early years of the twentieth century to the recent construction of the stunning Terminal 2 at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. With architectural flourishes from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and a relaxed lighting scheme by Brandston Partnership Inc (BPi), the terminal presents a sophisticated vision of a rapidly changing nation, without losing touch with India’s rich cultural heritage.

Mumbai is a city that sits at the centre of India’s aviation history. In the days of the British Raj the area, then named Bombay, boasted only one commercial airfield, Juhu Aerodrome, the home of the Bombay Flying Club, its intrepid members zipping about in de Havilland Leopard Moths. The Flying Club was responsible for launching the first flight to London that you could catch, in a rickety biplane, getting you back to Northolt Aerodrome in Uxbridge in time to catch Mr Flotsam and Mr Jetsam at the London Palladium.

Times have very much-changed in Mumbai, India’s financial centre, and Indian aviation now helps to project the nation’s economic might around the globe. The latest step was the opening of the impressive new Terminal 2 at the city’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.

Chhatrapati Shivaji International is the second busiest airport in India and the 48th busiest in the world, the new terminal adding a further 4.4 million square feet of space to the airport site. The completion of the new structure means that the airport is now capable of dealing with 40 million passengers a year, operating 24 hours a day, making it the true gateway to twenty-first century India.

Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and with a lighting scheme provided by Brandston Partnership Inc (BPi), the new terminal was conceived to be a ‘monument to the beautiful spirit of Mumbai and its people,’ and the architecture acts to mirror the grandeur of the traditional Indian style, while articulating a convincing vision of India’s future as a bourgeoning economic powerhouse.

The architectural appearance of the building is based upon the traditional Indian style and the impressive columns and vaulted ceilings are reminiscent of the Persian influenced buildings created in India during the Middle Ages. The terminal aims to offer a modern interpretation of the past with its articulated headhouse columns and intricate window screens that filter dappled natural light into the concourses.

Comprised of four stories, the building avoids the compartmentalizing of the terminal’s many functions, creating an open space, the symmetrical concourses radiating outwards, from a central processing core, making it easier for passengers to transfer between the domestic and international sections of the terminal, while reducing walking times.

“We designed an airport that is intimately connected to its surroundings,” explains Roger Duffy, FAIA, Design Partner at SOM. “By subtly incorporating regional patterns and textures at all scales, Terminal 2 resonates with a sense of place and serves as a spectacular symbol for India and Mumbai.”

Passengers enter the building on the fourth floor after traveling towards the terminal on an elevated and dramatically sweeping road. The concourse in front of the terminal provides ample space for traditional Indian departure ceremonies at the wide kerb-side drop of points and the drop-off area itself is completely covered offering protection from the heat and unpredictable monsoon weather.

The first view arriving passengers receive of the departure hall is through a 50-foot-tall glass cable-stayed wall, the longest in the world and an impressive kiss-off from India to those leaving the country. The glass wall was also installed for sentimental reasons, family, well wishers and those not traveling are not allowed to enter the terminal building in India, so the glass partition allows relatives to wave their loved ones off.

The interior of the departure hall is warm and light filled, radiating a sense of sophistication and style, two old principles of air-travel that looked out-dated and dead with the rise of budget airlines at the turn of the twenty-first century, but are now being reclaimed in the form of a spate of cutting edge airport terminals springing up across the world.

30 mushrooming multi-storey columns form the architectural centrepieces of the interior, supporting the long-span roof while bringing to mind the airy pavilions and interior courtyards of palaces and temples found in some of the quainter corners of the Indian countryside. To add something of a mystical effect small disks of colourful glass recessed within the canopy coffers speckle the hall below with light, the constellation of colours bringing to mind a peacock, the national bird of India and the airport’s official symbol.

Large skylights have been installed over 28 of the feature columns, ensuring the terminal building is bathed in natural light. 244 smaller skylights have also been fitted to distribute natural light between the columns, together comprising nearly 30,000 square metres of skylight glass, helping the building to achieve daylight autonomy for the majority of the year.

The roof itself is one of the largest in the world without an expansion joint and the long span of the steel truss structure allows for the spacing of the thirty 130 foot columns to be far enough apart to create a feeling of openness, while allowing for flexibility in the arrangement of the ticket counters.

Spotlights from Hoffmeister have been installed within the roof structure to light the terminal at night, aided by recessed downlights from Lucent. Further Hoffmeister projectors are used for general area lighting and to pick out the internal, structural columns.

After check-in passengers proceed to the retail area of the airport, which gives passengers ample opportunity to shop and eat, all while watching the aircraft arrive and take off through expansive floor to ceiling windows, which also act to bathe the terminal in natural light.

The commercial area, located at a junction between the terminal core and the surrounding concourses, provides a focus point for activity in close proximity to the departure gates, meaning passengers can shop and eat, without the fear of having a long walk to the aircraft doors.

Within the commercial areas a great deal of attention has been placed upon creating fittings that reflect the area’s traditions and rich culture, ensuring that passengers are not enveloped in an identikit space void of any reference to the country they are still within. So custom chandeliers have been designed by BPi and manufactured by Preciosa, inspired in shape by the lotus flower, while traditional mirrored mosaic work has been created and installed by local artists in order to remind passengers of the bustling life beyond the sparkling terminal concourse.

Regional artwork and artefacts have also been displayed forming part of an ‘art wall’, with skylights being utilized to highlight the craftsmanship of the articles in question.

BPi’s use of warm colours and elegant accents from Lucent, We-ef and Selux to light the terminal helps to create a setting that goes out of its way to avoid feeling like a traditional airport and the apprehensive feelings they can, at their worst, encourage. The creative use of natural light in the terminal also adds to the relaxed atmosphere.

Although the building is four stories tall, interconnecting light slots and multi-story light wells ensure that light penetrates into the lower floors of the building. Of course the light in India is of a completely different quality and nature than anywhere else in the world and when the sunsets and the deep honey golden rays seep into the building the terminal glows like a sculpted chandelier.

Energy efficiency was placed at the centre of the project. India, with its massive population, can have a real and significant effect on energy conservation world wide, if the nation starts to consider these issues now, as the country continues its economic spurt. Terminal 2 uses a high performance glazing system with a custom frit pattern to achieve optimal thermal performance and mitigate glare. Perforated metal panels on the terminal’s curtain wall act to filter western and eastern sun angles, creating a comfortable day-lit space for passengers.

Responsive daylight controls balance outdoor and indoor light levels ensuring optimal energy savings, while strategically placed skylights throughout the terminal reduce the building’s energy usage by 23%.

India’s first female aviator was Rabia Futehally, becoming, five decades ago, the first woman in the country to gain a private pilot’s licence, courtesy of that intrepid organisation, the Bombay Flying Club. She was a true feminist spurred on to learn to fly after seeing her brothers in action, piloting their Piper PA-18s at Juhu. Today there are more female pilots in India than in any other country in the world, a fine testament to a nation that is not only in love with aviation, but is also intent on progress, no matter what the obstacles.

Terminal 2 of Chhatrapati International Airport offers a similar statement. Not only is it a temple dedicated to flight, it is also a structure where modern materials, innovative design and technology have been used to powerful architectural effect. And yet despite the modern and sustainable nature of the design, the building does not lose touch with the city it serves, acting as much as a showpiece of the history and traditions of India as a technological achievement.


Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai, India
Client: GVK
Architect: SOM - Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Lighting Design: BPI - Brandston Partnership Inc



Recessed downlights/adjustable accents: Lucent Prospex Ceramic metal halide (HIT-CE, MR16)

Low ceiling recessed downlights: Lucent Prospex

Compact Fluorescent Long-throw interior accent: WE-EF FLC240 series

HIT-CE Ceiling spotlights: Hoffmeister FOCA 250; Hoffmeister FOCA 70 (for emergency lighting)

Linear cove accents:- iO Lighting line 2.0 Integral LED

Immigration hall trans-illuminated wall: Osram HF2 Stick Integral LED

General area lighting: Hoffmeister FOCA Square

Floor lighting: Hoffmeister Recessed Wall Luminaire

illuminated wall: Osram HF2 Stick Integral LED

Wall slot accents: Selux M60 series T16 Fluorescent normal and HO

Check-in and gate agent task lighting: Selux M60 series T16 FL, normal and HO

Baggage claim hall ceiling coves: Elliptipar F306 series T16 FL, HO

Gate concourse chandeliers: Preciosa custom made

Exterior uplight floodlights: Sill 49 Series


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