In a single, clear gesture, the clad roof of the new airport extension in northern Italy thrusts upwards as if ready to take flight. The clarity of the wing-like form signifies the function of the building and gives the public structure a strong aesthetic identity that can be appreciated from far and wide.
Anna Roos Bolzano’s local airport connects the largest city in South Tyrol with other cities all over Europe. Bolzano was historically – previously it was a predominantly German-speaking part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and was annexed by Italy after World War 1 – and remains to this day situated on a cultural “fault line”. Bolzano is tri-lingual, its inhabitants speak Italian, German or Ladin; its economic wealth is based on wine, fruit and tourism. The extension of the local airport to underpin tourism was precipitated by both the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) call for the extension, as well as the middle and long-term development goals of the airport itself.
Bolzano-based architect Lukas Burgauner was commissioned to design the airport extension. Previously the L-shaped airport building was a single-story, low-key structure, greatly in need of a facelift to make it meet the standards passengers expect of European airports nowadays. Burgauner tucked the new, west facing, double-story wing into the “crook” of the existing L-shaped building. In accordance with EU Regulations, the extension accommodates the flow of passengers arriving and departing in generous spaces that also include sanitary facilities. The bold articulation of the sloped roof and curtain wall façade with their oblique angles creates a strong dynamic and denotes movement and speed. Burgauner has broken with the ubiquitous right angle, which most buildings adhere to, in favour of slanted, zigzag lines. The manner in which the roof tapers to the eaves and the way that the roof and the eastern façade are treated as one, unified element thrusting in an upward trajectory produces a clear architectural statement. A deep eaves overhang, like a cap shading a face, also shelters and shades the high, non-loadbearing curtain wall that faces the runways. The forward-tilting glazed façade is reminiscent of an air-traffic control tower, where the glazing has to be tilted in order to prevent reflections and to allow air traffic control clear views of the approaching and departing planes. The building has no plinth whatsoever, instead, the façade extends all the way down to the ground, which seamlessly moves from outside to inside without any level change, allowing the smooth asphalt surface of the runway to flow into the airport terminal. This austere treatment serves to abstract the forceful forms and increases the overall visual impact.
The upper level of the terminal building, accessed via a stairway and lift, houses the administrative areas, VIP lounge, pilot lounge as well as a public transit area. The two reinforced concrete floors are covered by the roof, which is constructed with steel and clad in large-format cement composite Swisspearl panels. Dark grey gunmetal panels have been cut and shaped specifically to seamlessly clad the tapering eaves. The precision of the cladding, the crisp edges and the careful detailing of the glazed façade with its delicately inscribed panes ensure the building’s high aesthetic quality. The smooth surface of the slanted roof is interrupted by two atria that allow light to filter down to the lower levels. Unfortunately, these glazed atria spaces on the upper level seem to be unusable spaces and serve only as light filters.
Architecturally speaking this airport terminal has a clear, strong dynamic that corresponds to the building’s function. The clarity and small scale of the building are surely positive aspects for passengers enabling easy orientation and a reduction of the potential stress levels that many people experience when they travel by airplane.
The administration area of the air company, ABD, is situated in the upper floors of the new building. It is linked to the lower check-in hall via a generous staircase and a handicap accessible lift.
Lukas Burgauner, architect
New Terminal Wing | Airport Extension, Bolzano, Italy
Type of building
ABD Airport Bolzano Dolomiti, Bolzano, Italy
Lukas Burgauner, Bolzano, Italy
Renè Riller, Schlanders, Italy | rené riller fotografie
Construction Manager & Façade Construction
Stahlbau Pichler, Bolzano, Italy
SWISSPEARL, REFLEX Black Velvet 9221