Helsinki Airport expansions 2016-2023

Location: Vantaa, Finland
Functions: Airport terminal, Passenger facilities, Security control, Commercial premises
Scope: Architecture, Interior, Furniture design, Signage design
Client: Finavia Oyj/

Completed phases 2016-2023:

Bus gate area 3,200m2, 2016
Non-Schengen terminal expansion, South Pier, 8,400 m2, 2017
Non-Schengen terminal expansion, West Pier, 30,000 m2, 2019
Non-Schengen terminal expansion, Aukio area, 25,300 m2, 2019
Non-Schengen/Schengen terminal northern extension, 6,500 m2, 2023
New shopping and service hub, 500 m2, 2023

Helsinki Airport development programme

In 2013, a vast development programme was launched at Helsinki Airport to develop the customer experience, strengthen Helsinki Airport’s position as one Europe’s top airports and prepare for growth, particularly for long-haul and transfer flights. During the development programme, the airport has expanded in phases and is now able to serve 30 million passengers each year.

As a continuation to our work on Helsinki Airport projects since the 1990s, PES-Architects was responsible for the overall architecture and interior design of the expansions to the non-Schengen/long-haul flight terminal. We have also designed extensive alterations and upgrades throughout the existing T2 terminal, particularly to passenger and commercial services.

Non-Schengen/long-haul flight area expansion

The expansion of the non-Schengen terminal includes two new wings with gates and double boarding bridges for wide-body aircraft, South Pier (2017) and West Pier (2019) gate areas, and a core service area, Aukio, (2019) seamlessly integrated with the existing terminal. This area gives arriving and transit passengers their first or even only impression of Finland: advanced technology and an experience of Finnish nature and design.

The expansion features 9-metre-high glass facades to allow abundant daylight, supported by massive prefabricated steel braces. Arriving and departing passenger flows are guided onto separate levels, with glazed walls to aid wayfinding and enhance safety.

Wood is used widely on surfaces and in custom-designed furniture and fixtures to introduce a Nordic flavour, complemented by selected Finnish design pieces. Nature themes referring to Finnish flora and fauna feature throughout the expansion.

Aukio, the heart of the long-haul flight area

The functional and architectural heart of the extension is the Aukio area at the intersection of the West Pier and South Pier, with state-of-the-art security control and a wide range of commercial, restaurant and other passenger services. The plaza area is visible from outside the terminal as a lantern rising above the roof.

The highlight of the Aukio area is the double-height central plaza, designed as an oasis of calm and refreshment for weary travellers. The triangular space is encircled by a 75-metre-long and 2 metre-high undulating LED screen displaying a changing Finnish landscape. The installation is a collaborative effort by OiOi Collective with Granlund Oy, based on a concept by Davidsson Tarkela Architects and Rune & Berg Design Oy.

Flexible new gate area

In the last phase of the expansion programme, border control was expanded and a new gate area was built at the border of the Schengen terminal and long-haul flight area. The area is designed for flexible use so that the same gates can be used for both Schengen-internal and long-haul flights. 

New life for original T2 departure hall

The airport investment programme was wrapped in autumn 2023 with an inspiring new airside shopping, service and meeting area in the former T2 departure hall originally designed by PES-Architects and completed in 1999. The heart of the hall is an organic timber landmark structure, forming a chanterelle mushroom-like canopy over shops.

The long time span of our work at the airport has offered us a unique opportunity to witness the development of Helsinki Airport from a provincial airport to a major international transit hub, as well as the general change in the nature of terminals into busy commercial centres.

In the hustle and bustle of the airport, is important for the architecture to be clear, sustainable and consistent. Architectural design should integrate the ever-changing commercial structures into a cohesive whole and create a calm visual environment for passengers. The combination of function-driven rationality and a human-centric, user-focused approach could be called "rational poetry”.

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