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How to Travel like an Olympian

04/20/15

For anyone who has hauled themselves and three 70-pound suitcases through one uninspired airport after another (adding insult to injury, frankly), you really notice a distinct difference when you have the pleasure of schlepping through the halls of a thoughtfully made concourse. Good light, clear signage, more-than-decent food: These things can be travel deal breakers, made with the user respectfully in mind if done well and, well, not with the user in mind when so often done poorly.

With the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo off somewhere in the distance, the new terminal at Narita International Airport has had a rather sporty inception. Designed by Japanese creative lab PARTY in conjunction with minimalist retailer Muji and consultants Nikken, Terminal 3 was created as an indoor running track made with a joint-friendly polyurethane material far more pleasant to walk on than standard concrete and color-coded according to direction. Blue for departures and red for arrivals keeps the flow of traffic moving.

Though the result is an innovative and playful interior that serves as a superior user experience, the project’s goals were really how to achieve good design at a low cost. As a result, the team forwent electricity-mooches like moving walkways in exchange for the aforementioned spongy track and opted out of illuminated signs in favor of bold graphics cleverly placed throughout the space.

Less really is more.

Photos courtesy of Kenta Hasegawa