Business Life: The Airport as Third Space

The airport used to be one of the necessary evils of international (or longer domestic) travel. It was a big, echo-ey, square box of a building with confusing signs, expensive cafes and endless possibilities for missing the flight because the kids went AWOL among the duty-free sweets.

It was just somewhere you had to get through, literally and figuratively; a bottleneck of the worst kind. In recent years, however, there’s a new generation of airports that have sprung up – well, in reality they’ve been built by companies like Lagan Construction Group – that are embracing The Third Space.

What is The Third Space?


In modern life, until recently, there were two spaces – home and the office or other workplace. With shifts in working practices brought about by telecommuting, the increasing proportion of freelancers and the self-employed, as well as women working and socialising outside the home more, public buildings have bridged this yawning gap somewhat.

It’s now normal to see someone at the gym, pecking away at a laptop, or having a game of table tennis in the communal gardens outside his office. The two spaces of private home and official workplace have blurred, with places like train stations, gyms, cafes and airports becoming multi-functional places where the different spheres of life meet seamlessly. Third spaces should be free or inexpensive, have food and drink, be accessible to all demographics and be welcoming. Today’s new airports are all those things and are showing the potential to be so much more.

Do yoga while you wait

Yoga class in an airport

Instead of trailing around and watching the departures board for hours, you can now have a nap, get a massage and even do some yoga. Helsinki Airport in Vantaa, Finland, free yoga classes, sleeping pods for long layovers and (of course, it’s Finland after all…) saunas. The aim of this airport is to become part of the enjoyment of travelling, not an endurance trial.

Munich Airport actually has a place you can surf, albeit only in the summer. In the winter, you can go to a Christmas market there instead, or enjoy a beer festival in October. The idea is to bring the outside world in so that the airport isn’t some hermetically-sealed holding hall.

Then there’s the environmental concerns that flying and airports have a duty to address. In Uruguay they’re well on their way; Carrasco International Airport in Montevideo is gorgeous and eco-friendly. This small airport is a sweeping white curve that generates its own power with solar panels and wind turbines that power everything in the airport as well as the electric shuttle buses. It’s a start…

Relax and enjoy the flight

Using smartphone during flight

Many of these innovations, from art galleries to yoga to sleeping pods and swimming pools, are designed to reduce the stress and boredom of travel. However, they’re also part of the relentless drive to meld work, family life and leisure time into one comfortable cocoon. Travelling is no longer lost time – you can catch up on work, or ditch it altogether to meet far-flung friends and family at an in-airport hotel. The choice is yours as it’s just as much your space as your living room or your work desk.