Travel used to be reserved for the elite or for explorers, not sure whether they were ever going to make it back home. Now that the Concorde has stopped serving us, and luxury liners have been replaced by floating Luna parks, travel has become even more of a middle class hassle. Travel has turned into tourism, which is like turning wine into water. But a long time ago, when people were still allowed to carry cabin luggage and when a returnticket to Prague or Athens cost almost a month’s salary instead of 99 eurocents, the wonderful world of air travel was synonym for elegance and design, symbolising humanity’s remarkable progress.
Airport design is the subject of an exhibition in the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art. I’ve always been fascinated by airport architecture. The Third Reich arch of Berlin Tempelhof THF, TWA’s curvy terminal at JFK by Saarinen, or the dramatic simplicity of CDG‘s Terminal 2F: all reflect its society in which they were conceived. Cabin design and fashion evolved in a similar way. Passenger seats changed from painful cane chairs into private pods with high-tech entertainment, and stewardess became icons of fashion. According to Christian Lacroix, who designed Air France’s outfit in 2003, flying is dreaming. But unless you have the joy to travel in a private LearJet 45, it is hard to dream in overcrowded airports. If you like stewardesses, or just their uniforms, you might be interested in the photo collection of the Uniformfreak. If you’re interested in graphic design in travel advertising, you will find plenty of that on Travelbrochuregraphics.
Maybe terrorism will turn travel into something for the adventurous again, a challenge to the romantic soul who travels to explore and to endure. But until that time you can dream away in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, until 5 November 2006. The exhibition will travel afterwards.