Three quarters of a million people are in a plane somewhere right now. Many millions travel by air each day. For most of us, the experience of being in an airport is to be endured rather than appreciated, with little thought for the quality of the architecture. No matter how hard even the world's best architects have tried, it is difficult to make a beautiful airport.
And yet such places do exist. Cathedrals of the jet age that offer something of the transcendence of flight even in an era of mass travel and budget fares. Here are twenty-one of the most beautiful airports in the world.
Wellington International Airport, 'The Rock' shaped like the dangerous cliffs of a local legend Kansai International Airport, Renzo Piano's gigantic project built on three mountains of landfill Shenzhen International Airport, a manta ray shaped terminal putting this booming region on the map Daocheng Yading Airport, the world's highest civilian airport in the middle of the Tibetan mountains Chhatrapati Shijavi International Airport, rising from the slums of Mumbai like a Mogul palace Queen Tamar Airport, a playfully iconic modern airport nestled in the mountains of Georgia King Abdulaziz International Airport, the gateway to Mecca resembling a Bedouin city of tents Pulkovo Airport, mirroring the city of St Petersburg with bridges, squares and art Berlin-Tegel Airport, ultramodernity, 1970s style Copenhagen Airport, an icon from the golden age of air travel Franz Josef Strauß Airport, sober and easy to negotiate, Munich's model airport Paris Charles du Gaulle Airport, the brutalist icon that launched the career of airport architect Paul Andreu London Stansted Airport, Norman Foster's return to the golden age of air travel Lleida-Alguaire Airport, a relic of Catalonia's early 21st century building boom Madrid-Barajas Airport, Richard Rogers and Antonio Lamela's calm, bamboo-panelled Terminal 4 Marrakesh Ménara Airport, a blend of 21st century construction and traditional Morrocan design Santos Dumont Airport, Rio de Janeiro's modernist masterpiece Carrasco International Airport, Rafael Viñoly's design inspired by the sand dunes of his native Uruguay Malvinas Argentinas International Airport, echoing the mountains and glaciers of Tierra del Fuego John F Kennedy International Airport, Eero Saarinen's glamorous jet-age TWA terminal Spaceport America, a vision of the future in the New Mexico desert
Laura Frommberg and Stefan Eiselin are business journalists and publishers of the largest German language blog on the subject of air travel: areotelegraph.com.