A modern, state-of-the art building in the heart of the airport. This is Connector. Literally a connecting building it is also an architectural bridge between two different zeitgeists and styles. Connector itself is contemporary, open, low-energy building with an eye to the future.
The departure hall in the terminal and Pier B date from the 90s, and the Topaz building at Pier A from the 2000s. The two buildings were designed in different zeitgeists and with different architectural accents.
The challenge for Connector was to bring the two buildings together, in a stylish and contemporary form.
One of Connector’s immediately striking features is the saw-tooth roof. Apart from aesthetic and technical considerations, this saw-tooth structure of the roof has the advantage of letting in more natural light, thus creating a pleasant environment as well as being energy-efficient. And because it is cold northerly light, the building doesn’t heat up.
To create harmony, the colour of both the terminal (white) and of Topaz (grey) are incorporated into the facades, contrasting with the dark-grey facade of the ground floor.
Building with sloping facades
Besides the challenge of creating an aesthetic architectural unity, there were various practical construction challenges. For example, the existing passenger tunnel right next to the Connector site, which had to be kept fully operational.
Another crucial factor was the slope of the terrain: between the terminal and Pier A there is a height difference of 2.4 metres. This makes the check-in in the terminal, for example, 7 metres higher than the gates in Pier A. Connector accommodates this difference in height by having only one double escalator between the level with the screening lanes and the shopping and relaxation section.
Standing close to the facade of Connector, you will see that it slopes slightly outward, by 8 degrees in fact. This was necessary to prevent the building from reflecting radar beams from Belgocontrol or signals from aircraft radio navigation systems that might confuse or bother pilots.
Not only did the facades have to slope, but they were also required to withstand jet blasts. Big aircraft can produce wind speeds of up to 160 kilometres per hour behind them when they start their engines, and so the facades and the structures were adapted accordingly.
Passengers are part of the airport, and so it was decided to build an open and transparent building that would give them a broad view of all the activities that go on here.
Starting with the screening platform, where passengers can see through the big windows on to the tarmac. A striking feature here is the ‘wing’, an architectural feat in Connector that screens off various technical elements.
To prevent the many windows from causing the building to overheat, they have been fitted with sun screens and vertical fins, which have been incorporated into the facades as an aesthetic element.
The screens on the west side are jagged and contain meshwork that takes the form of elongated hexagons. The shape and size of the meshwork has been designed to prevent the screens from reflecting radar beams and signals from aircraft.
The passenger was the focal point in the design of the interior, and the brief was to create a restful and agreeable atmosphere in Connector. Accordingly, quality materials were selected, with a harmonious colour palette that makes the building light and airy. The main colours are white and grey, supplemented with some colour accents in the furniture, for example, as highlights.
The floor is mainly of natural stone, supplemented with zones of ceramic tiles with a wood appearance to provide a feeling of warmth.
The shops in Connector have also been coordinated with the main colours of white and grey, so that everything forms one attractive whole. The shopping section is in white, with the shop names appearing on glass.
Concerning the furniture and layout, it was important to combine the aesthetic with the functional. For example, there are different types of seating: seats, comfortable chairs and reclining chairs, with some being fitted with an electric socket and USB port to allow the charging of tablets, mobiles and other devices.
Total surface area: 32,850 m²
Footprint: 11,000 m²
Number of floors: tarmac level +2
Construction term: 22 months
Construction costs: €62 million
Volume of concrete: 4,000 m²
Volume of steel: 2,000 tonnes
Foundation: 560 columns, together 3.5 km long