The architectural firm MVRDV is constructing the Czech Lanterns at Prague Airport: three new buildings whose design is intended to relieve passengers of stress and provide an intimate connection to their homeland.
Ruzyně is located a few kilometres west of the city centre in Prague’s sixth administrative district. The municipality is also known to non-locals, as it is home to Václav Havel Airport Prague the largest international airport in the Czech Republic.
After the lean Corona years, passenger numbers are growing steadily again. The figures will soon reach pre-pandemic levels. Those responsible are now taking this growth into account: the airport is being expanded – and the winning project was finally selected in an architectural competition in October 2023. Its name: The Czech Lanterns.
The Dutch office MVRDV was chosen to design three new buildings at the airport together with NACO (Netherlands Airport Consultants). The centrepiece of the project with the, well, glowing name is the extension of Terminal 1, where the departure hall is located. The extension will be carried out in two phases. And with two buildings: the security control area and the business and VIP lounges will be built first. The building will also have a Vertiport, a take-off and landing area for electrically powered aircraft such as drones or air taxis.
As all these facilities are located on one level, there are no barriers to overcome when travelling through the terminal, explains MVRDV. “The travellers’ actual destination – the airfield – is also always in view. In combination with the view of nature on both sides of the building, this helps to minimise travellers’ stress.”
Here, the studio makes reference to the transparency that was emphasised in the design. Glass walls allow an unobstructed view into and out of the buildings. In addition, lush greenery in front of the panes on both sides of the security area also creates a natural atmosphere inside. “It creates the impression of a dense forest in front of the windows,” says MVRDV.
In addition to the view through the huge glass fronts, passengers inside are presented with satellite images of the Czech Republic on the ceilings and walls. On the exterior façade, which the designers call the Czech lanterns, photovoltaic panels provide sustainable power generation.
The architectural firm calls its design “table-like”, as four cores support the overall structure of the building, which is otherwise characterised by large spans. The materials used were concrete and steel. As sustainability in the construction method was a major concern for those responsible, glulam beams were also chosen for the lightweight hollow concrete floors.
Phase two then envisages the construction of another building. A “twin” of the security building is to be built next to it, the use of which will remain flexible. Thanks to the same design and structure as its neighbouring building, this will allow it to be easily converted into a new check-in area in the future, for example if the airport expands further. This avoids a costly and unsustainable remodelling process.
Directly in front of the two new buildings is the new airport boulevard, which passengers will use to arrive by car, taxi or bus. The third building, which will house a conference centre and a hotel with a multi-storey car park, will be erected on the other side of the boulevard. “Here, too, the design is geared towards versatility and allows for adaptation to future expansions or reconfigurations,” says MVRDV.
“Nowadays, most airport experiences for travellers are detached from any sense of place or control. This will soon be different in Prague,” adds MVRDV founder Winy Maas. “When you pass through security, you will feel like you are surrounded by the greenery of the Czech countryside. The experience will give you a sense of calm and control … a moment when you feel grounded just before take-off. When you return to the Czech Republic, there is a feeling of coming home as the Czech lanterns guide you home from afar.”