Abstract: Landscape of Suspicion: The Transformation of the American Commercial Airport

Daniel L. Rust


Commercial passenger airports in the United States underwent a transformation from transparent landscapes welcoming all people without suspicion to become a landscape where everyone was suspected of potentially seeking to bring harm.  The innocence of air travel was shattered by a series of bombings and hijackings in the 1950s and 1960s. The implementation of security measures fundamentally changed the level of suspicion as transparency was demanded of passengers.  The architectural style of airports reflected this change as the soaring designs of Yamasaki and Saarinen gave way to bulky, defensive architectural motifs.  Intensified security measures implemented in reaction to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 brought a new level of suspicion to the airport landscape.  Today there is not a single place in America that the general public frequents where the level of suspicion is more intense than at the airport.