Copenhagen Airport: An Architectural Journey for All Passengers



© Rasmus Hjortshøj

Bright interiors and premium materials exude quality and a welcoming atmosphere. Architectural ingenuity and masterly design schemes make Copenhagen Airport one of the world’s best airports.

Copenhagen Airport, Kastrup, as it is officially named, sends air passengers off on a pleasant journey before they even board their flight. The flooring makes a pleasant muted sound underfoot as passengers transition from the sandstone floors of Terminals 2 and 3, ascend the stairs and step out onto the hardwood flooring of the first story. The transitional acoustics from the hard street-level floors are designed to signal that passengers can now relax because everything is taken care of. The sound is intended to trigger an unconscious sense of homeyness and peace of mind, as if moving around on the floors of their own homespace. With their luggage checked in, the passengers can rest easy and let the journey begin.

Setting a Global Precedent

Vilhelm Lauritzen was the first to employ this architectural design, later emulated by countless airports around the globe, that clearly differentiates between “landside” and “airside”. The design transition was initially used in the airport’s first terminal proper: the Vilhelm Lauritzen Terminal of 1939, which in 1999 attracted intense media coverage for its relocation to the opposite end of the airport campus.

Look Up!

The ceilings of Copenhagen Airport’s terminals are each unique in their design. From the generous daylighting used in Terminal 2, to the aviational inspiration of Terminal 3, where the ceiling contours describe aerodynamic wings, which, from the air, resemble an iconic paper airplane. The slender apex of the building points to the descents to the airport’s metro and rail services. In contrast, the space at the opposite end opens out like a cathedral. A series of 22-metre columns bear the roof, from which the light floods in from the rectangular glazed sections.

A Century of Aviation and Architecture

Copenhagen Airport in Kastrup has undergone several transformations over the years. The version we know today originated in the current Modernist-style Terminal 2, which was completed in 1960, and Terminal 3, which opened to passengers in 1998. And with the exception of the first building, “Træslottet” (the wooden palace), built in 1923-26 by the architect Waldemar Jørgensen, the airport architecture was largely designed by Vilhelm Lauritzen and his successors. In 2005, the firm designed a new 72-meter flight control tower, Finger E opened in 2020, and Vilhelm Lauritzen Arkitekter will also be designing a future Terminal 3 extension.

Multiple Airport Offshoots

Over time, increased capacity demand and its role as a hub for many Scandinavian air passengers has resulted in successive airport expansions. In these, other architectural firms have also played a major role in the airport’s design. In 1986, KHR Architecture accomplished the modernization of Finger B, followed in 1999 by the construction of Finger D. Holm & Grut Arkitekter built Finger A in 1995, and in 2001 were contracted for an extension of the terminal adjacent to Finger C.