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19th Mar 2024

The ambitious journey towards the Terminal in a Garden

Terminal 2 at Kempegowda International Airport Bengaluru (BLR Airport) is a passenger experience unlike any other.

Rich in biophilic design principles, the innovative landscape and architectural approach taken with Terminal 2 aims to alleviate the stress that is so commonly associated with commuting by air — while simultaneously connecting a wide audience to nature, biodiversity and Karnataka’s rich heritage and culture.


Andrew Haines, senior associate at pioneering international landscape architecture practice Grant Associates, has been strongly involved with this milestone project since 2016. As the airport started to welcome its first international passengers towards the end of 2023, Andrew joined Chennai-based architectural photographer Sreenag Pictures to document what has been collectively achieved, and to talk through the journey towards achieving the ‘Terminal in a Garden’ vision as part of the Everything Comes Together series.

“An amazing opportunity”

Andrew explains on the show how the opportunity to be involved in this remarkable project first came about, and how its early ideation was grounded in Grant Associates’ previous, award-winning work.

“After we completed Gardens by the Bay in Singapore [in 2012], a number of the [BIAL] client team were lucky enough to see it for themselves,” shares Andrew on the show. “That started to generate a conversation around [the role of] landscape architects and who might be best placed to take on such an amazing opportunity at Kempegowda.”

“We worked on the masterplan in 2013 … with a focus on a new terminal as part of that masterplan. I believe that the combination of seeing our approach and innovation with the completed Gardens by the Bay project alongside our masterplan work placed us in a good position to have a conversation around T2.”

“A building within a landscape”

“We were interviewed for the project in 2016 … at the same time as architects were also being interviewed for a competition for the design of the building. One key aspect of the brief - and for appointing us - was to create a building that sat within a landscape. BIAL’s vision was a ‘Terminal in a Garden’, and that was the starting point.”

Working in collaboration with New York based architects SOM, a design team would ultimately be appointed and built around fulfilling this ambitious vision in Bangalore and re-imagining the future of airport travel. “We immersed ourselves in everything Bangalore,” recalls Andrew; “that was really the start of this long journey to the fruition of the terminal that you see today.”

“A series of gardens along the passengers journey”

“We were incredibly interested in this idea of a journey: from the client’s point of view, the journey of a passenger starts at home when they are booking their flight and eventually making their way to the airport. So we had fascinating discussions with the client and with the architects about how passengers will arrive and also thinking about the ‘pulse’ of particular passengers — recognising that there are different pulses for business and vacation travellers. We were thinking about all of these different passenger profiles and how they would use the terminal.”

“We looked to establish a series of gardens along that journey. We wanted to achieve the idea that the passenger would move through the terminal in a very particular way: always in contact with gardens and nature.”

“A hard-working landscape”

Nature takes centre stage throughout the intentional reinvention of the airport terminal experience. The strong biophilic design focus that is in abundance throughout the vast terminal creates a truly special environment that captures the spirit of the place, offers a unique garden journey — and points positively towards the passenger experience of the future.

“In terms of the vision, I think the client was determined to break the mould of terminal design … you could really see the ambition [from the outset]. The four pillars that sat under the overall vision — Terminal in a Garden, Sustainability, Technology and Arts and Culture — really set the pace for the project.”

AG Forest belt sketch

“What attracted us this project was that it was delivering a terminal building within a landscape, as opposed to a landscape around a terminal building. We were drawn to the challenge of trying to create a setting for the airport — not simply beautifying the airport, but a hard-working landscape that would offer passive cooling, a sustainable water system, and also offer up the opportunity to increase biodiversity levels — not just locally within the confines of the airport but also the knock-on effect of the wider context beyond the boundaries of the airport.”

“An incredibly powerful concept”

The external gardens and forest belt at Terminal 2 creates a very special microclimate with temperatures two to three degrees lower than its surroundings. The gardens and forest cover assist in cleaning the air, while social panels and daylight harvesting are estimated to help the terminal achieve around 25% energy savings. Over 7,700 existing trees and palms have been saved and re-used as part of Terminal 2, with the plants selected for use around Terminal 2 being predominantly native, responsive and resilient to a changing climate.

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“We wanted that forest belt to be all-consuming around the building, so that whether people were arriving or departing, they would have to physically cross that forest belt. As the design developed, that also opened up opportunities for the creation of physical access through walkways to get people even closer to nature and those treetops.”

“We had to really innovate and carefully consider how we could accommodate planting within such a process-driven space. Incorporating planting at an aerial level throughout the terminal works so hard throughout the terminal building, both serving as guiding lights through the space — perhaps we wouldn’t have come up with such an incredibly powerful concept had our approach not been defined by the limitations of the environment in which we were working. In hindsight, I think that drove a much more exciting design — and it’s a design that has really taken off now, appearing in multiple magazines and with passengers sharing lots of photos and videos of their experience on Instagram. Jaws drop when people first arrive inside the terminal; it’s an incredible spectacle.”

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