Stockholm airport proposal elevates runways among city rooftops


Graduate shows 2015: airport runways are raised above the streets and waterways of a new Stockholm city district in this conceptual proposal by Bartlett School of Architecture graduate Alex Sutton (+ slideshow).

Stockholm City Airport by Alex Sutton for The Bartlett graduate show 2015

The proposal, named Stockholm City Airport/Airport City, envisages a future where commercial aviation becomes more integrated into the fabric of the city rather than being relegated to the outskirts.

To demonstrate this, Sutton proposes a new airport in the Swedish capital where small terminals, city-wide baggage systems and short-length runways slot in around offices, apartment blocks and cultural buildings.

Stockholm City Airport by Alex Sutton for The Bartlett graduate show 2015

"Travel demand in the aviation industry is set to double by 2030 and continue increasing exponentially into the future," explained Sutton. "In order to satisfy demand and the increasing importance of the airport on local economies, capacity in the industry needs to increase."

"This project uses Stockholm, one of the fastest growing cities in Europe, as a testing ground to establish a fully integrated urban airport as part of a new city district, in a time when aviation technology is such that aircraft and airports could operate from within our cities."

Stockholm City Airport by Alex Sutton for The Bartlett graduate show 2015

The proposal was developed as part of Unit 16 at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London. Students were asked to develop a utopian dream and consider the steps necessary to make it a reality.

Sutton chose to explore the future of the airport on the basis that the typology has become "mundane and ordinary" due to its ubiquity.

Stockholm City Airport by Alex Sutton for The Bartlett graduate show 2015

The proposal claims that, by using a system of elevated taxi-track systems to move aeroplanes around the terminals, engines could be disengaged until take-off and would hence produce far less emissions and noise.

"This project responds to the developments that are being made in aviation today, such as the local flight context, take-off and landing, aircraft ground movements, security, passenger processing and ground operations," Sutton said.

Stockholm City Airport by Alex Sutton for The Bartlett graduate show 2015

"These can inform new architectural opportunities for the airport design, that provide a better relationship between the airport, the city and the traveller," he added.

The airport would be supported by a Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system – a series of pods that move along rail tracks – so that passengers don't need to drive. These pods would also serve aircraft gates.

Stockholm City Airport by Alex Sutton for The Bartlett graduate show 2015

Self-service baggage kiosks would be located alongside PRT stations, as part of a smartphone-controlled automated system that removes the stress of carrying luggage around.

"Digital developments such as personal digital bag tags, pre-prepared remotely from the airport, allow passengers to effectively drop-and-go," said Sutton. "The system then uses the digital information to take the bag directly to the relevant aircraft gate, where it will be automatically sorted and loaded onto the aircraft."

Stockholm City Airport by Alex Sutton for The Bartlett graduate show 2015

A system of waterways are proposed beneath the elevated taxi-tracks, retaining Stockholm's traditional water culture and also providing an alternative mode of transport, while cycle routes are integrated within the masterplan.

"The track system is raised up to create a physical barrier between the city and airport infrastructure for security, but also to create a sense of the magic of flight, with these amazing machines passing gently above," added Sutton, citing Frankfurt and Amsterdam Schiphol as examples of existing airports raised over roads.

Stockholm City Airport by Alex Sutton for The Bartlett graduate show 2015

Sutton's project is the latest in a series of imaginative airport proposals to emerge in recent years, with others including a combined airfield and shipping port, and a drive-through airport that processes planes like a car wash.

The designer was one of nine final-year students on Unit 16, which was tutored by architects Josep Mias, Johan Berglund and Dean Pike. Other projects to emerge from this year's Bartlett graduates include a new style of architecture for atheists.

Stockholm City Airport by Alex Sutton for The Bartlett graduate show 2015
Location plan – click for larger image
Stockholm City Airport by Alex Sutton for The Bartlett graduate show 2015
Section one – click for larger image
Stockholm City Airport by Alex Sutton for The Bartlett graduate show 2015
Section two – click for larger image
  • Paul Lloyd Johnson

    Impractical, maybe pointless, but this sure is fun and looks great.

  • Durgen Jensen

    Not sure how this project made it on the site and it looks like they put in a lot of work, but this looks much closer to dystopia than utopia.

    Way too many moving parts to keep working and even though the elevated platforms will reduce the noise and emissions during taxiing, the planes still need to take off and land on the site. That will be incredibly loud and unpleasant to live next to.

    It would almost be less effort to redesign the way planes work instead of rebuilding cities to match a changing technology.

    • Gene Yoon

      Within the silent solitude of a drafting table or a computer screen, one can get lost for hours in a maze of wondrous possibilities. At some point, though, a designer picks her head up, blinks her eyes to the world around her, and suddenly realises she might have been sleeping.

      Apparently, this guy never woke up. I really cannot comprehend how this hallucination actually made it to the proposal stage.

      • Durgen Jensen

        Well put, sir.

      • Drew

        Lighten up.

      • What I’m wondering is at what point she became he?

        • Durgen Jensen

          Anything can happen in the late hours of a studio.

  • Unless the designer is ironically aiming to urge the aviation industry to produce noiseless, clean and safe commercial planes, this is the worst transportation concept ever since the elevated highway.

  • Diego

    What about noise and safety concerns? Why are we abandoning cities in which you can enjoy the view without it being saturated by roads, high-rises, etc?

    • And what about that exciting trip to the airport?

  • Prole
  • Ekow

    Can Bartlett students invest their creativity in solving real world problems for a change? Is this what the world needs from architects?

  • disqus_sDyfrl2pWa

    This proposal seems less about solving a problem with architectural creativity and more about producing CGIs. It seems completely pointless. These sorts of projects from the Bartlett really propagate the view that architects are living in a cloud cuckoo land and do not understand design in the real world.

  • Nick

    Are Bartlett graduates capable of producing anything that isn’t absurd?

    • Eynak East

      Yes. Now have some pie.

  • Nick

    Oh, in case anyone was wondering: the amount of structure actually needed to support the weight of an airliner.

    • ..

      Err, are you sure that isn’t over-engineered? And it’s not quantity of structure by the way, it’s quality of structure.

  • Elias Gomez

    Who likes to live by an airport?


    Embarrassing concept.

  • bonsaiman

    Can’t wait for the new seasons of Air Crash Investigation.

  • Firas Maatouk


  • HowmaNoid

    Let’s be kind and call it “fanciful”.

  • Zaha Hadidn’t

    Amazing concept! Awesome design.

  • Remco Boersma

    This project is a bit like a concept car; it might look great (or not) but can’t be built to road-legal specifications. It will basically never see the light of day in its entirety.

    Parts of the design or some of the ideas might be later used in real life. For example, I like the electric transportation system, though maybe not in this form. I could see an automated transport system being used for moving containers around Rotterdam’s container terminal and being used to move airplanes around airports.

  • CC

    It has been interesting reading some of the responses. However, please do not forget that the students were asked to create a “utopian dream.” While not practical, in many respects, this design practice does serve an important purpose and can, potentially, inspire real-world solutions at some point – even if only certain aspects subliminally remain in the recollection of future designers.

    Is anyone familiar with similar little handheld devices such as those carried around by Captain Kirk and his crew?

  • James Howard

    If he wanted to be utopian, why didn’t he design floating cities or something that could actually be desirable? This is horrendous, for two main reasons:

    1) Noise and other pollution. Kai Tak Airport in Hong Kong used to be in the heart of Kowloon. Descending planes used to fly between apartment blocks to land. It was visually exciting for passengers but it must have been absolute hell for the people living there with the noise and exhaust pollution.

    2) It’s dangerous. If a plane crashes while landing or taking off at an airport, it’s generally only the plane and passengers that are damaged. However, if you build an elevated runway in the heart of a city and something goes wrong, you’re going to have mass destruction and carnage.

    There are good reasons why Kai Tak Airport was closed and the airport was moved to an island off the coast of Kowloon. Let’s not bring the airport back into the city centre again.

  • JayCee

    A bright career within the Bjarke Ingels asylum awaits this graduate.

  • Let’s hope this doesn’t lead to Stockholm syndrome.

  • Joe Ricchio

    Bartlett School of Architecture should be ashamed. Was there not one instructor with enough integrity to tell the student that this is the stupidest concept ever? As a school you have cheated your students.

    It ignores every concern one should be considering: safety, noise, air quality, etc., etc. I just hope they install many video cameras so we can see the first crash on the news!


    Impressive on a computer screen, but not much contact with reality. I know this Stockholm site well and the proposal is laughably context-irrelevant.

  • Johnny

    “A system of waterways are proposed beneath the elevated taxi-tracks, retaining Stockholm’s traditional water culture”.

    It’s a very narrow-minded view of retaining the water culture. What about how people enjoy using the canals and the wildlife and habitat? It really would not be the same with large runways covered in lights and huge planes travelling about.

    Architecture is not about literal solutions that seem to work on paper, but requires a deeper understanding of society and how it functions as a whole. Surely some of these questions must have been asked at this student’s crits though out the year, or were they all seduced by imagery?

  • Andrew Wilson

    As well as the noise and safety implications, let’s not forget about the power and thrust of a jet engine. It’d tear Stockholm to pieces within seconds. Fanciful, but idiotic.

  • Tom Hansen

    I think the real way to solve this entire problem of airport access from urban centres is very simple: dedicated non-stop hi-speed rail directly from the city centre to the airport. With no traffic worries, you could get to most airports from the urban centre in just a few minutes.

  • Tom Hansen

    Separate point: this was an exercise for a class. This is NOT, nor ever was, nor ever will be, a proposal that was even intended to be considered as an actual plan for a real airport.

    It looks to me that the point of the exercise was to come up with a crazy idea, and then go through the process of planning how to make it happen. The actual validity of the idea was probably irrelevant.

  • Kristina

    Ummm… Stockholm’s seaport lies at the exact spot that the proposed airport is situated. The small waterways might not be enough for the big cargo and cruise ships I suppose, right?