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A New Dulles Airport: Reimagined for a Post-COVID World

Washington, D.C.

Washingtonian Magazine recently called on local architects, planners, and designers to redesign some of the District’s favorite public gathering places for a post-pandemic world. Aviation Leader Ty Osbaugh and Senior Project Designer Charles Morley responded to this challenge by reimagining Washington’s Dulles Airport for the socially-distant future with a focus on making the experience feel personal, not sterile.

Dulles’s identity is the romantic notion of whisking travelers from curb to aircraft in style. The iconic headhouse welcomed fliers with a flourish and swept them to the mobile lounges, for transit to the aircraft. Technology and growth at Dulles fundamentally changed this sequence. Like most airports, the Dulles experience today is an exhausting sequence of hurrying to wait. We can seize this moment to move back from a crowded communal experience to a personal one, restoring Dulles’s original identity.

Step one is relocating security and health screening, using biometrics at Dulles’s entrance and the plane gate. Screening at the front door provides a completely secure facility, handing the entire interior experience back to the guests. Screening at the gate grants access to board. These changes free travelers from lines and crowding and allow the space to be used more liberally. Step two is using technology for identification and screening, including autonomous vehicles that check-in and screen fliers en route to Dulles and drop checked bags at a designated area. Step three is the repurposing of the headhouse: It’s now the primary waiting lounge, enhanced with green space and more room to circulate since there are no more lines to wait in.

At departure time, passengers go to the gates in individual pods. Once again, the Dulles experience is an individual journey with minimized walking, all under the soaring roof of an architectural masterpiece. Dulles lets every passenger know: ‘This is all about you.’

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