I recently flew internationally for the first time (JFK-LHR) and, when flying through LHR, found myself surprised at its design philosophy. It seems that there was basically one big gigantic hub with a "departures lounge" in the center of the facility surrounded by restaurants and a veritable shopping emporium, then radiating out from that a series of barren hallways (with moving sidewalks) leading away to the gate -- something like a ten or fifteen-minute walk away.

I'm more used to American airports where even the little second-tier regional airports have restaurants and amenities distributed throughout the terminal among the gates - so I was surprised and a little confused, until I figured out what was going on.

Clearly the underling architectural and design philosophy of these airports is different. Are there even names for these philosophies? What historical reasons gave rise to these different layouts? Are certain layouts strongly preferred in different parts of the world?

closed as off-topic by Flimzy, uncovery, Dirty-flow, Mark Mayo, Tor-Einar Jarnbjo May 28 '14 at 14:49

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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about architecture – uncovery May 28 '14 at 14:31
  • @uncovery I partially agree but I would actually like to know if it's possible to classify airports according to their architecture. I always feel anxious and lost when I go to a new airport. If there was some clue about what kind of airport I am going to find, I would be most happy. It would definitly make my pass through the airport more efficient and pleasent. I am not sure if there is an answer for this though. – nsn May 28 '14 at 14:38
  • @nsn a) you are right, but this only relevant for airports built from scratch and not those who have been expanded over a longer timeframe b) it's still architecture :) – uncovery May 28 '14 at 15:04
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    There generally doesn't tend to be a philosophy. LHR is a bad example of airport "planning". By the sounds of it you are referring to one of the central terminals. These are currently being demolished and replaced, as parts of them date back to 1955. Due to various constraints (financial, available space, planning laws, minimising disruptions), various extensions have been added over the years, resulting in the current jumbled mess. Here's a PDF explaining different terminal types: clacsec.lima.icao.int/Reuniones/2007/Seminario-Chile/… – Gavin Coates May 28 '14 at 15:41
  • You might try asking this on the Aviation site - but no promises. – DJClayworth May 28 '14 at 18:37