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Airports as Networks

I’ve been doing a bit of traveling lately and spent some serious time in airports. Last night, we had to go from Gate C5 to Gate A13 at Minneapolis-St. Paul’s Lindbergh Terminal. While this map doesn’t really do the distance justice, gate C5 is close to the core area of the airport and A12 is perhaps the furtherest gate from the center. In fact, as you walk toward gate A13, the moving walkway ends, the concourse narrows, the little concessions disappear replaced by by open janitorial closets and worn gate furniture.


It was appropriate that gate A13 was on the periphery of the airport as our flight from Minneapolis to Grand Forks represented movement toward the periphery of the nation (if not geographically, at least in most other ways!).

In Brisbane, the situation was a bit different. We departed from Gate 75 of the International Terminal. Like gate A13, this was at the far left (east?) end of the International Terminal. Its isolation was largely because flights to the U.S. require additional security measures best managed at a gate that can be isolated from the major flow of traffic through the airport. So, in this case, the isolation of the gate represents another form of isolation both in terms of global security and in the local network

The prayer room (see Kostis’ efforts on his blog to document these strangely post-modern places) is perhaps even more peripheral than our gate 75. It is tucked behind bathrooms and a family changing room. The lack of windows and depressing, institutional furniture make it perhaps the least comforting place in the entire airport. My suspicion is that this space was designed more the hide the act of prayer from prying and nervous eyes than to present a suitable place for contemplating and communicating with the divine.
Of course, this kind of simple and fun network analysis breaks down a bit when dealing with a massive airport like LAX. Here we flew to Minneapolis from Terminal 5, where Delta/Northwest departs and to Australia from Terminal 3 on V Australia, both peripheral to the central Bradley International Terminal. It’s harder, however, to find metaphorical associations between the gates and their destinations.
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