A custom color for the new terminal at Athens International Airport ― 

The new terminal extension at the Athens International Airport is a wisely designed building, conceived as a “prequel” to the terminal that had been complete for the 2004 Olympic Games, though it was constructed twenty years later. The new terminal building stands out in its 1500m² singular façade, which saw the application of a custom-made powder coating color, meeting the architectural specifications of the project architects, AVW Architecture, working together with Tombazis and Associates Architects. The color was specially developed by AkzoNobel, in close collaboration with the team of architects.

The building façade is divided in three horizontal strips, each bearing distinctive vertical metal shutters; it is “condensed” as it approaches the old terminal building and “dissolves” the closer it gets to the observation tower. This way, the façade emulates the speed of vehicles approaching the airport, as they gradually go slower reaching the departures level. On the side of the runways, the building is kept transparent with extensive glazing, providing unobstructed views from its interior.

The architects benefitted from contemporary technology materials and finishes, remaining consistent with the existing building, in order to design its natural extension. By asking for a custom powder coating color, the architects introduced an innovative technology, not previously available: The powder coating color is sustainable and needs significantly less maintenance compared to the materials available two decades ago. Specially for the airport, the architects asked AkzoNobel to develop an exceptionally light grey powder coating with sable texture, that would retain the tactile properties of the natural materials cladding the old building, instead of being a “cold”, industrial color. Moreover, they asked for a color with a hue and texture that would provide optimal interaction with light – natural or artificial – provided that the main architectural components of the façade design are the vertical shades, with edges illuminated at night.

After extensive prototyping, AkzoNobel created a custom powder coating for the metal components of the new façade, introducing a new technology of coloring that bears all the necessary industrial certifications in its production, application and maintenance, and remains consistent with current ecological sensibilities. This technology can achieve a uniform appearance on a large scale, with excellent color retention, uniform change of hue in the course of time, minimal maintenance, and is anti-glare through its fine textured surface. The new material protects and decorates this much lighter façade, compared to its adjacent buildings, and confronts exposure to the weather conditions of the airport location; further, its performance meets the specifications of a light fitting reflector, that is not tiring to the eyes under the intense Greek sunlight.

The new terminal is a distinctively elegant, minimalist building that welcomes and bids farewell to visitors, marking the new era of the Athens International Airport. Inside it houses the infrastructure for extra-Schengen departures, as well as an extensive retail park, where light and motion – the protagonists of the composition throughout – receive a different architectural treatment, highlighting surfaces and rhythmically guiding visitors towards their destination.

For its exceptionally high architectural quality, the new terminal building was nominated at the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture, Mies van der Rohe Award 2022.

Architecture: AVW Architecture και Tombazis & Associates Architects

Photography: Yiorgis Yerolymbos

*All photographs illustrating this entry are courtesy of AVW Architecture, with the permission of the photographer.