newsletter link
mondo arc

Kutaisi International Airport, Georgia

Issue 79 June/July 2014 : Architecture : Airport

Architect: UNSTUDIO Lighting Design: PRIMO EXPOSURES

As part of a bid to reinvigourate the economic fortunes of Kutaisi in Georgia, UNStudio designed the new Kutaisi International Airport, with lighting design by Primo Exposures.

After the cessation of heavy industry exports to Russia, the city of Kutaisi in central Georgia experienced a prolonged period of economic difficulty. In response, the government instigated a series of radical regeneration projects, including the relocation of the country’s seat of parliament to the city and the construction of a new international airport.

The King David the Builder Kutaisi International Airport was conceived as a way of opening up the region to the growing numbers of tourists who have recently been discovering this young state in the Caucasus. The government also wanted to reduce the cost of flights to the region, thereby not only making the city more accessible for tourists, but also for the large student population attending Kutaisi University.

Architectural practice UNStudio was asked to design a new airport that could serve domestic and international flights for use by tourists, students, national politicians and international diplomats. Their remit covered the entire airport development, including a revision of the runway, the master plan for the surrounding landscape, the terminal building, offices, a meteorological station and the air traffic control tower. Regulations for the airport were strict and comprised of a mix of European and Georgian standards, including earthquake zoning 8 requirements.

The design for the new airport incorporates both the country’s historic landscape and its architectural traditions. In Georgia, public buildings and private houses employ their entrance lobbies as showcases for their individual identities. In the design for the new airport, UNStudio embraces this architectural concept in order to manifest Georgia’s young and dynamic democracy, along with its rapid development as a main crossing point in the region. Georgia is located on a crossroads of rich cultures, with a history of travellers passing through the Caucasus or arriving from the Black Sea. The airport is therefore designed to act as a foyer for the city; an open and welcoming architectural gesture.

Specific attention was paid to the experience of the traveller. In many airports, the passengers’ pre-flight ‘conveyor belt’ experience pays little regard to the joy of travelling, to the social and experiential component of travel. With Kutaisi International Airport, the architects aimed to replace this sense of mechanisation by reintroducing of a sense of joy, as architect Ben van Berkel explains: “The design for the new airport embraces the traveller by embodying the circumstances of the site. Moments of both leaving and returning are celebrated by the large span, open spaces and high ceilings of the terminal structure - reflecting the ways in which such gestures were employed in the great railways stations of the past.”

UNStudio worked with fellow Dutch practice Primo Exposures to create and implement a coherent lighting scheme for the site, one that would enhance this sense of place and add elements of wonder and delight to the journeys of those passing through the airport. Since 2005, Primo Exposures have worked on the lighting design of many major projects in Georgia, including the Presidential Palace, Ministry of Internal Affairs, TV Tower, Bridge of Peace and the Tbilisi Mall; first-hand experience that proved useful during the construction of Kutaisi Airport.

The architecture of the terminal refers to a gateway, in which a clear structural layout creates an all-encompassing and protective volume. There are two key architectural details around which the airport functions are organised: the red-clad, cut-away corner detail on the building’s exterior and the ‘umbrella’ structure that sits at the centre of the terminal and provides a ‘roundabout’ for the smooth flow of passengers as they arrive and depart.

The umbrella is formed from a cell structure of polygonal shapes that dip down from the ceiling in ever deepening shades of yellow. A selection of these cells are emphasised by circumflex-shaped strips of recessed lighting, tucked against the occasional corner. These XAL fixtures, provided by Dutch distributor Industrielicht, continue onto the ceiling of the terminal building and out beyond the glazed façade onto the concrete overhang.

The glazed exterior walls along both sides of the building help create layers of reflected and direct light when looking both into and out from the building. Thus, in views out towards the Imereti Foothills, these angles of light become flocks of arrows circling in the mountain sky.
XAL also provided additional CDM downlights for the terminal, though approximately 80 percent of the lighting was from Philips, part of a total lighting package, supplied with support from Philips’ Moscow, Kiev and Eindhoven offices.

The 55m high air traffic control tower and its supporting office/operational building is designed to complement the design of the terminal. The tower’s strong appearance makes it a beacon for the airport and surrounding area. The traffic control cabin on the top level forms the focal point of the tower, with a 360 degrees view of the surrounding landscape. A spacious and comfortable interior ensures a workspace for 4-8 operators with optimal concentration.

The exterior of the tower is clad with a perforated skin on a concrete core that uses the passing wind to ventilate the building.

Approximately 130 metres of colour changing LED lighting from Rena Electronics sit in-between the skin and the core. After dusk these translate fluctuation in wind speed into changing patterns of colour, thus enhancing the tower’s ‘beacon’ effect. Colour changes are triggered by a wind speed meter that feeds data to a Pharos Controls system, programmed by the Pharos team. The Rena LEDline fixtures shift from darker colours during low winds to brighter tones as the wind speed picks up.

Further Rena fixtures, 440 metres of Led2grid white luminaires, were used to edgelight the tower’s unconventional geometry.

Rena and Philips fixtures were also used inside the tower’s offices, with the notable addition of Hoffmeister adjustable, low-glare LED downlights that illuminate the desk areas in the air traffic control room. Up to 40 flights per week operate through the airport and, with direct flights from Western Europe recently added to the schedule, an estimated one million travellers are expected to use the terminal in the 2014-15 period.

The airport is designed to accommodate expansion of up to double its current size and capacity, should this prove necessary in the future.
Completed under the lead consultancy of UNStudio, the project was designed and constructed in just two years, with the airport becoming operational in September 2012. Both design and construction saw the involvement of numerous local and international companies, with openness and knowledge sharing proving essential to fulfilling the tight schedule. As Primo Exposures’ Marco de Boer notes: “Once again we had a great, and very memorable, Georgian Experience: building an airport in nine months, from scratch, with an international team of designers, workers and suppliers from Holland, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Spain, Israel, Belgium and, above all, Georgia. Together we were able to meet this project’s extreme deadlines.”


Kutaisi ‘King David the Builder’ International Airport, Georgia
Client (terminal): United Airports of Georgia LLC
Client (control tower): Sakaeronavigatsia Ltd
Architect: UNStudio
Lighting Design: Primo Exposures


Air Navigation Offices  
22 x Philips Fugato Compact FBS261 downlight; 96 x Philips EFix TCS260  TL5; 3 x Philips EFix TCS680  TL5; 41 x Philips BBG46225  downlight; 6 x Philips Pacific Performer WT360C TL5
2 x Philips Celino TWS680 TL5; 23x Hansa LED desk luminaire
10 x XAL Frame 120, 28W; 1 x Modular SL Mini Naked TL5; 2 x Proliad Recessed spotlight LED; 18 x Prisma SPEEDLINE 154
2 x Prisma SPEEDLINE 139; 4 x Prisma SPEEDLINE 144-24; 14 x Prisma Power supply

Terminal Offices:  
5 x Hoffmeister DL 200, IP65 downlight; 6 x Philips BBG510 downlight; 49 x Philips Fugato FBS261 downlight; 45 x Philips TaskFlex FS400D task light; 25 x Philips SmartForm TBS417 TL5; 54 x Philips EFix TCS260  TL5;  20 x Prisma SPEEDLINE 139;  22 x Prisma SPEEDLINE 154; 20 x Prisma Power supply ; 16 x Rena LEDline30cm; 1 x Modular SL Mini Naked TL5 system; 4 x Modular 300 Nude PAR30 pendant; 34 x Philips EFix TCS260  TL5

650m XAL special light line in ceiling; 2 x Siemens Dali Controller; 2 x Siemens Button Panel Station; 2 x Siemens Multi Sensor

Landscape / Apron  
45 x Rena LEDline 30cm; 63 x Philips CitySpirit CDS470; 63 x Oostendorp  5m pole; 38 x Oostendorp 6m pole; 20 x Philips DecoScene DBP523 uplighter; 38 x Philips Selenium SGP340 road lighting; 15 x Philips Optivision asymmetrical downlighting; 15 x Philips VSA ballast; 3 x Philips FWC121 security lighting

Control Tower Interior:  
160 x PIL PL1501117 T5 54W/830; 20 x PIL Torque cable; 27 x PIL PL1501117 T5; 18 x Philips Pacific Performer WT360CTL5; 15 x Philips Fugato FBS261 downlight; 18 x Rena LEDline (60cm/90cm/120cm); 4 x Rena Control box; 6 x Philips  Ambient lighting; 10 x Hoffmeister Complx.150, DALI LED 1800lm; 4 x Hoffmeister Complx.150,D 200lm

Control Tower Exterior:  
Edgelighting (total length 438.7m): 19 x Rena Led2grid 10; 194 x Rena led2grid 30; 202 x  Rena led2grid 60; 6 Rena led2grid 90; 210 Rena Led2grid 120

Illuminating core (total length 126.1m): 50 x Rena PSU HLG-240-20; 18 x Rena LEDline 306mm; 1 x Rena LEDline 606mm; 10 x Rena LEDline 906mm; 92 x Rena LEDline 1206mm; 9 Rena Powerbox; 1 x Pharos Touch Panel Controller; 1 x Pharos Button Panel Station; 1 x Pharos Lighting Playback Controller; 1 x Pharos Wind speed detector


Related Articles


Follow us on…

Follow Mondo Arc Magazine on Twitter Follow Mondo Arc Magazine on Facebook Follow Mondo Arc Magazine on Linked In

mondo arc india

darc awards DWLF IALD PLDC LRO