Negotiating Landside Airside Space
Along this paper I try to describe the landside and airside boundary based more in the evidence found in revisiting the cultural history of aviation and airports, rather than any of the previous definitions or the current technical conventions. In other words, I am open to find a new meaning. I see the landside-airside as the borderline between humans and machines, a complex negotiation between the forces of “users” and “technological determinism”. Metaphorically, this boundary can speak of a truncated love story -that in essence is not different to our fascination to automobiles or trains- but finally ends truncated, as the landside-airside history will show. My conception of landscape-airside captures in its physical form, the romantic days where the “airminded” enjoyed visiting airfields just for pleasure, but also gives a lead to understand why were later separated throughout the years. Sadly, in our days airport terminals are “Bentham’s Panopticons” where surveillance and “tension” are omnipresent, passengers are treated as potential criminals and people is not allowed to make jokes or laugh. But one century ago, airports were something radically different. What is the purpose of this study? Perhaps because it is hardly evident or even noticeable, the landside – airside boundary has been scarcely discussed in the literature of aviation and has been particularly overlooked by historians of technology. In our present days we often transit through its limits without realizing, however its psychological dimension is present in any airport. The way I intend to address this frontier is not limited to its current functionality; in terms of security, customs or regulations of any order. My research hypothesis was first based on the empiric comparison between the landside – airside boundary that we find nowadays in any airport and its strong disconnection with the early years of airport architecture. Just a glimpse to the first years of aviation will allow us to notice, a radical departure from our tactile relationship to planes, to our present physical “divorce”. Our right to enjoy the world of aircrafts has been strangely denied to us, but maybe under the shadows of war or terrorism this is not so unexpected. This preamble invited me to establish first a panoramic framework on the history of airport planning in order to raise a more specific research question. Therefore, I intended then to trace along the earliest configurations of this man-machine frontier and then follow up its progressive development until it was shaped the way we know today. As the preliminary work moved forward, the initial hypothesis evolved into a more specific question concerning the implications of this change. In the apparent “evolution” of this transformation there was a clear breakthrough, almost dividing history in two opposite halves. Spanning from the pioneering days of airfields, only after the Second World War, airports were laid out the way they are now. Curiously between1937 and 1944 a small number of projects seemed to redefine our historical relationship to planes and its fascinating world. But among these examples, one highlighted above all: the 1939 New York Municipal Airport, also called North Beach and later LaGuardia Airport. It distinguished itself from the rest perhaps because it was the first of its kind and literally the first modern airport in America. Unanimously, its contemporaries considered it an exemplary technical innovation in airport planning, although its architecture was strongly criticized. As I suggest along this essay, some specific features of its layout captured for the first time, the growing conflict between humans and machines; in other words the irrevocable breaking-off between spectators and airplanes that became a silent witness until the terminals were finally demolished in 1960 .
Keywords: Airports, Technology, Terminals, Landslide, Airside, Man-Machine Conflicts, Culture, Aviation, Metaphor, Surveillance, Boundary, Architecture, Engineering, LaGuardia, New York, Modernity, Planning, Airminded, Systems, Transfer, Rail, Language
PhD Student, Science and Technology Studies, Cornell University
Within the academic field he is currently conducting research in international technology transfer and airports, as a 2005-2008 Fulbright Scholar. He is currently writing on cultural history and sociology of technology, in topics such as airport engineering, structures and materials, and architectural acoustics. His previous teaching career included appointments with the three foremost private universities in Mexico. In 2005 he was named Director of the International Conference and Certificate program «Tecnoconstrucciones Futuras» in Univerisdad Iberoamericana, Mexico City. He has recently lectured in more than twenty-five prestigious institutes and universities in four continents, mostly addressing on his recent professional work, his research and other key emerging technological issues such as global energy and sustainability. He was appointed in 2006 as a member in the board of advisors in the TC Chan Center for BS and Energy Studies (Tsinghua University Beijing and University of Pennsylvania) Currently, he leads VMA S.C. (A High Technology Design Firm) and VMTransfer S.A. de C.V. (An Airport Design Company) in Mexico City and Monterrey. VMA was established in 1997, and it has developed an array of projects in genres such as office and residential, urban master planning, hotel resorts, entertainment facilities, public and commercial developments. VMA is currently designing more than 500,000 sqf. office and hospitality buildings in Mexico City. As a philosophy, his office applies innovative technological applications within the construction process and logistics, as well new environmental applications to efficient energy consumption. Among the awards received in recent years, highlights the first place in the International Competition for the new Monterrey International Airport Terminal B in Mexico (currently under construction), the second place in the International Competition for the Guadalajara Library 2005, the third place in the International Competition for the new Mexico City Airport in 2004, honorary mentions in the National Steel Prize Mexico 2003 as well as the Otis International Competition 1997, and the Gold Medal in the National Prize of Architecture Pani 1993 in Mexico. His previous professional background includes positions with Moshe Safdie and Associates in Boston, GICSA International and more recently as an Associate Partner in SCAPE.