Us and them: Brick & mortar versus click & cursor

Several weeks ago, churumuri contributor ASHWINI A. alerted us about the tale of two airports.

The Cochin international airport (left) at Nedumbassery, she said, seemed to embody the essence of Kerala architecture at every corner and in every cornice. Red-tiles, slanting roofs, towering spires, traditional windows… Cochin’s airport is decidedly traditional —and local—at least from outside.

The facade of the new Bangalore international airport (right) at Devanahalli, on the other hand, is another cup of by-two coffee. Lean, functional and futuristic, it looked no different from IT city’s impersonal and characterless glass castles, hurriedly and cheaply assembled to execute the next order.

Turns out that Ashwini is not alone in her observation.

Mohammed Shariff writes in today’s New Indian Express in an article titled “This airport simply hasn’t taken off”:

“The entire [BIAL] airport looks like a block of hollow concrete bricks. Add to it flawed design and bad colour combination and it looks positively aesthetically challenged. There are no exciting forms—it is just a block-shaped building with lots of glass glued on to it….

“The graphic inside gives you the feel of an old government office built without any architectural sense. The signage and other info graphics are very badly done, with no thought, apparently, to aesthetic value….

“You could easily mistake the first floor of the airport for the Forum Mall. I did not see anything that reflects Indian architecture, anything that represents our core values; or which tells the world that we are no longer a developing nation.”

Is there anything that Siemens, the builders of BIAL, could have adopted that suggests Kannada or Karnataka? Does Karnataka or Bangalore have architecture, like Kerala’s, that could be called uniquely its own? Do airline passengers, even if they are international tourists, bother with design? Would a better design have left BIAL visitors with a better impression?

Also read: After all, an airport doesn’t open/close every day

I’ve seen the future in Hyderabad and it works

Country cuisine crashlands in new airport

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41 Responses to “Us and them: Brick & mortar versus click & cursor”

  1. WiTChEr Says:

    We could have done with some wonderful carvings like we have in the rich heritage of Karnataka. The bigger concern than the aesthetics might be the logistical issues and security issues. In this, the sense of Bangalore has been potrayed well. Ill connected, and planned for just the immediate future, with no foresight. The BIAL could have been a better airport, considering the ‘World-class’ tag Bangalore has managed to bag.

  2. Dr. Sree Reddy Says:

    The new airport at Devanahalli hardly refelcts culture of Karanataka.
    The cusine served inside does not reflect any Karanataka traditions at all. I had a read an article that said BIAL is going to use Karnataka sculpture. I did not find any.

    The announcer in the BIAL had very Malayalee accent and most of the security personnel are form the North. The coffee is very expensive. 80 rupees!!

    It is corruption corruption everywhere.

    Politics, administration, education have all become professions to mint money not to serve people.

  3. pragmatic Says:

    More here — must read!

  4. Vishnu Kumar Says:

    @ the doc, corruption ?? where. lol. chill out doc just cause there are non kannadigas managing dosent mean it is corrupt.

    Yes i do agree the BIAL airport sucks. In a contemporary context, the airport seems like it was designed 10 years ago. Although there might be a few underlying functional aspects that could prove me wrong.

    The architect hasnt even taken to account where this airport is, it is clearly irresponsible by the BIAL to have choosen randomly a foreign architectural firm rather than a national/local one who would have got the cultural context right.

    OK maybe, these guys had to make a fast decision. Fine the architect could have at least employed a local bloke, to understand the culture.

    I don’t think karnataka has a contemporary architecture, Its more of a Indian contemporary architecture that is more prominent.

    Design does matter, period.

    This blunder reminds me of S.M krishna’s blunder to replicate the Vidhan Soudha. Horrible mistake. waste of so many corers.

    Forgive me if my opinion seems a little vauge, i havent seen the actual airport only pictures on churumuri and websites alike, socant say much.

  5. Amar Says:

    With all those talks about serving ragi-mudde etc at BIAL, I was looking forward to a nice meal before my afternoon flight. Sadly, it was not to be.
    There’s a Subway outside, a CCD inside, and a Barista beyond the security check. For some reason, ticketed passengers, once in, were not let outside the main door. If you prefer Subway to CCD, make sure you eat before you enter.

  6. etvraviraja Says:

    I have 2 observations
    1. i agree with the post, there is no character to the airport…we get more deprssed when we visit suvarnabhumi airport in bangkok…they even have samudramathana sculpture…(check entire BIA does not have a single piece of art (i do not consider the monstrous suitcase kept outside as a piece of art)
    2. food: it is wrong to say there is no local cuisine…there was bisi bele bath last week, but the vendor told me that they have sold only a couple of plates of last week!

  7. captainjohann Says:

    When the people who signed the deal with BIAL could agree to no other airport within 150 miles , then why should they think of Karnataka culture?

  8. rosesarered Says:

    It is a fashion nowadays to criticize anything connected with Bangalore! The author and Mr Mohd Shariff are no exception to this rule. Criticize Bangalore and get published. Is there nothing, not even an iota, about Bangalore that can be praised?

    Bangalore is as good or as bad as any other Indian city; in Chennai where I live presently, the three English newspapers vie with one another daily to praise Chennai every single day. And any article that ridicules Bangalore in any small way finds a prominent place in Chennai papers.

    People must be fed up of this Bangalore-bashing, surely.

  9. T.Shetty Says:

    Give me a break. Why a modern, futuristic design is bad and a traditional design that looks like a temple from outside is better? If BIAL had taken the ‘traditional’ approach, these guys would have compared it to modern, futuristic airports and bashed bangalore anyways…!

    This is truly rediculous. It’s a fair game to criticize the operational flaws, corruption, lack of infra-structure etc. To criticize the colors and architecture shows the intellectual bankruptcy of these people.

  10. Dr. Sree Reddy Says:

    I dont think I would have criticized BIAL if it had followed some traditions of Karnataka.
    Mr. Vishnu Kumar you should open your eyes and see as for contemporary sculpture in Karnataka.

    I dont think the bulding in Kerala is contemporary.

    When you go infront of Vidhana Soudha, open your eyes WIDE AND SEE!!

    I am not into any Bengaluuru bashing. BIAL could have had some sense(s) to reflect Kannada culture and Kannada cusine.

    I love my Bengaluuru.


    Non Kannadigas in management means they will not allow any Kannadigas
    to share the jobs. All the jobs will go to the linguistic group that non-Kannadiga belongs to!!

  11. mayura Says:

    The Cochin airport looks like a dharma chatra in dharmasthala, nothing more nothing less.

    More than the building itself, it is the timeliness of flights, access to airport,security in and around airport,service at the airport etc that matter most to the commuter. With one runway for the next 10 years and the projected numbers of airport users has already been reached in its first year of operation itself, it would be a nightmarish experience, during the subsequent years to manage air traffic with just one run way. People should have paid attention to these things first.

    However, hiring a foriegn architectural company to design the airport, and hiring a consortium who have no stake/incentive in using the local architecture for the airport design itself, sealed this issue of the aesthetics from the begining.

    The only airport I have seen which has a good mix of national and international concepts in the design in the calcutta airport. Everything else sucks big time.

    Like Dr Reddy says, if the people who make decisions on the airport are not locals and are imported from TN and delhi, they would care a rats behind for local architecture and sensitivity.

  12. krishna Says:

    oh oh where is the kanada rakshane vedike now? dont see them anywhere.
    I hope the airport builders realize that its better to place some good sculptures, photographs of local art and buildings and historical places they still can salvage the concrete building they have dumped Bangalore with.

  13. Faldo Says:

    I think the real test of the airport is to see if it is functional. Aesthetics, art and what have you can be added over a period of time. We should give this airport sometime before rushing to judgement. I agree like some others here that it has become a fashion to bash our city. We should be critical of faults but also show some balance.

    While asking whether art matters to the international traveller, we need to study the profile of the majority of the travellers to the airport. If they are tourists then yes art matters a lot. But if they are NRIs coming home to visit family or people coming on business, they would more likely be interested in reduced commute times, short wait times, a place to grab an affordable bite with a choice of the local cuisine and maybe in some quick shopping. Just my two paise.

  14. nijavaada Says:

    some one else also has voiced their opinion on similar lines – taking the international picture into context this time. Follow this link:

    All this has indeed started showing all the -ves that lie beneath this glass jungle and also the apparent linguistic oppression too.

  15. Pulikeshi the last Says:

    The new airport does not belong to Kannadigas alone, anymore than Bangalore does. That’s IT-BT logic.

  16. Koli-Fiyaz Says:

    There should have been some mixture of western and Indian Culture in the design of the Airport. The Airport was designed and implemented in a hurry. BIAL should consider these factors in there 2nd phase and can always be implemented. But a passenger to BIA, is more worried about his connectivity, flight, time and safety. Most of we Indians have the tendency to criticize in anything, especially when it comes to projects like these. Obviously there is a transition period where it takes some time for a new airport, this happens every where, can’t expect a flawless functioning. Even in US or western countries, there have been instances where gates have changed at the last moment, toilets getting clogged, and baggage delay. People or media enjoy criticizing more than appreciate, that’s where they get the more attention. You can’t expect to get cheap food at an Airport, Airport is not an eat-out or Darshini.

    For instance there was hue and cry from every corner of Bangalore, about the connectivity to Airport and having HAL airport operate in parallel, PIL was filed, courts intervened. What were these guys doing when BIAL started it’s ground work 3-4 years back; nobody complained or raised this issue, why didn’t they push the government for the speedy implementation of express way…?

  17. vijay Says:


    karnataka rakshana vedike is very much there. they have been talking to the bial authorities about all these and more for the past month. things will move on this front in the next couple of weeks.

    check this link:

    you can see the acceptance signature / seal from bial for having received this memorandum.

  18. Another One Says:

    I am ok with the contemporary futuristic designs, but to me BIAL looks like a old warehouse with glass panels. From the out side its one box. After the teething complaints like 2 big planes cannot be parked next to each other and the luggage access way can only accommodate one tractor(we still use farm equipment in an international airport). In a newly built airport I would like to see more convenience like multi levels, one for arrival, domestic departure, intl departure etc. I would like to see an integrated covered parking facility with the arrival level. Just marking an area with some coloured lines under the sun,BIAL cannot cliam they have built a parking lot for 2000 cars. Its just leveled with a parking contractor.

    Disclaimer: I have only seen the photographs so I may completely wrong.

  19. Alok Says:

    Having seen the airport from inside, I must say it looks monstrously ugly.

    It is like the HAL airport, with more granite. That’s it.

    Compared to the equally new Hyderabad Airport, the Bengaluru International Airport looks like it was made out of Lego bricks, by a thoroughly unimaginative adult. Even kids would have used some imagination, but this airport is ugly and boring.

    Bengaluru deserves better.

  20. Vishnu Kumar Says:

    @ the doc, well where does the corruption come up then sir.

    Contemporary sculpture in karnataka is neo-classicism, its not contemporary. (please link me to some of you examples,i maybe wrong)
    I haven’t commented about the kerla airport, i am now – i think it is a reasonable architecture for its time and context (1999).

    I love my Bangalore too, doc.

  21. My3 Says:

    I haven’t seen either airport. But the Kerala one looks exactly like an old “new” railway station. And BIAL is after all for the IT industry. What exactly is Karnataka architecture? Mangalore tiles make it Mangalorean. What about us, Mysoreans ;-) ? Never ending infighting. They even have not renewed the contract to the bookseller in the old airport. I have picked up so many books on my way back to the US from that airport. Even my parents pick up a couple of books and then drive back to Mysore!

  22. Nitin Says:

    From what we hear basic functioning like parking two airplanes ,baggage claim are still unclear which one would assume would be above or par to international standards.Seems like In all the din over the years during construction Mr Brunner has delivered a less than ordinary airport.

    I wonder how much of our own IT captain NRN’s vision went into this.

  23. Madhu Rao Says:

    It’s not easy to please all. Yes, Cochin airport has a lot of local inspirations and we have none. Maybe it was with a reason ? With tourism being “the” industry in the state, it helps Cochin. At BIAL, with business traffic being the majority, it may have been toned down. Having said that, there is no reason why local architecture cannot be instilled in a subtle way. BIAL seems to have overlooked that aspect.

    More troubling than the aesthetics are the glaring mistakes we kep hearing : Arrival and departure on the same floor ; bad access roads ; just one X-ray machine ; short on Aero bridges; 20 gates as opposed to 40 in RGIA ; User fees ; ATC issues

    On the airport food and steep prices, what’s new ? A crappy sandwitch and a coke will set you off by 13-15 euros in CDG,Paris.

    If BIAL can make it efficient but looks like an ugly duckling people will still be happy ..

  24. SumneChamak Says:

    One thing I noticed was, the airport didnt have a single clock (atleast the checkin and departure sections). Since, its an international airport, the first thing passengers look for is a clock… set the time (upon arrival)?
    I dont wear a watch and my cellphone battery was gone.

  25. tarlesubba Says:

    Does Karnataka or Bangalore have architecture, like Kerala’s, that could be called uniquely its own?

    who wrote this?

    Water amid rocks

    Hemakuta hill

  26. Janasamanya Says:

    It is quite appropriate. Kochi is in Kerala, so it represents Kerala culture. But Bang Lore (not Bengaluru) is not in Karnataka (atleast being a Kannadiga I have not felt so). Therefore, Bangalore does not represent Karnataka culture.

  27. irsumursu Says:

    KP and team, I am glad you guys woke up now! Check it out:

    it’s probably too late to talk about this now, good job!

  28. bellad Says:

    Civil aviation minister Praful Patel to be blamed.

    When the state govt suggested Hampi temple designs for interiors of the BIAL, this patel rejected it calling it as nothing but one junk design.

    Tell me,, where does any new comer get to know about a city and it’s culture??? it is obviously Airport and Airport in bengaluru is not depicting anything related to the glorious 2000 years of Kannada history.

    The double standard followed by Praful is very evident. The very minister wants visitors entering kolkata airport should get a feeling of entering Tagore’s Bengal”.

    Check out this story by Enguru:

  29. Koppal Haida Says:

    I agree with bellad. I have read too many complaints against this MF Patel. look how this pimp reacts when it comes to mumbai .

  30. Old Mysorean Says:

    Why don’t you gp elsewhere and read and comment and add your thoughts to improve your state?.
    Have you heard of Hoysala architecture in Belur and Halebeedu?. Have you heard of Chalukya
    style architechture in Northern Karnataka?.
    Bangalore airport is in Karnataka and farmers in Karnataka has given their lands to build this
    airport and we don’t need outsiders to maintain such menial jobs as salesman@shops,
    servers@restaurant, announcers etc. There are many unemployed english speaking people
    in Karnataka who are more than willing to take up this. I know in the very company i work
    all the tea/coffee/pantry jobs are occupied by malayalees not because they are better than
    Kannadigas or not because they are dropped straight from the heaven but just because
    our administrative manager happens to be Kutty.

  31. Dr. Sree Reddy Says:

    Old mysorean

    To be precise IAS cadres!. They are the ones who are spoiling our Karnataka.

    Those guys dont know what is Halebidu and Beluru or Hampi.

    Our government did not speak on behalf of our farmers who gave land to the airport. Families who gave land should have been given some kind of employment. But no ifnormation ever came out and was not reachable to our people.

  32. etvraviraja Says:

    from all these rantings few things are very clear
    1. most of the people who commented here have not even seen the airport
    2. few of them have “experienced” it
    3. many want to degrade this facility by spreading rumours, so that HYD or other airports indirectly benefit! wake up kannadigas…do not allow BIA bashing! (no i do not have any shares in this venture!)

    In my experience, last week
    1. parking/ arrival to airport was easy( 60 minutes was the ride, even with heavy downpour- HAL used to take almost same time, if one had to cross indiranagar junction mess, with or without narrow flyover)-there are nice signanges in 3 languages about international/ domestic departure entrances.
    2. there are huge white dial clocks on pillars- if you care to see them
    3. signage is friendly
    4. self check in option available, plenty of terminals for that too- make sure your e ticket has a bar code printed on it. traditional check in was easy too. There is no X ray screening for checked in bags – they do it later i believe!
    5. food counters are available before and after sec check. selection of shopping marts is ok.
    What I found cumbersome:
    1. lack of awareness of use of signanges by the public, so unnecesary crowding
    2. poor toilet maintenance- and poor toilet etiquettes by users, I found a diaper in the toilet bowl!
    3. shortage of seating in food court area- probably because people do not vacate their seats after eating!
    4. like all new airports, lot of walking involved, upon arrival.
    5. Lack of objects of art/ sculpture etc in the airport…except for images of Hampi stone chariot.
    6. announcements are not very clear

    But overall experience is GOOD, we deserved such a facility long ago, delayed – thanks to our own infighting, court cases for land acquisition…lack of will…fight on naming it…etc…

    Please do not propagate rumours…

  33. kaangeya Says:

    I am not surprised that the the Bangalore airport is a soul-less marvel. In a country where a garish, ghoulish, abomination built according to simplistic 5th standard geometrical designs – a dreary funerary monument – I mean the Taj Mahal – is valued more than the magnificent Hampi; indicates we have no sense of aesthetic. But then what are the janaa doing electing such nincompoops to power. The other day Sitaram Yechury the commie clown has the cheek to suggest that the airport be named after Tipu Sultan, a man who destroyed scores of monuments. And we kept quiet. Not one person suggested that it be named after Kempe Gowda (founder of the city), or M. Veshweshwarayya – engineer extraordinary, or the Wodeyars who ran a beneveloent Mysore State or even Sir Mirza Ismail, the far-sighted Dewan of Mysore. Or at least Walchand Hirachand who founded Hindustan Aircraft in Bangalore in 1946, which has evolved into Bangalore’s aviation industry.

  34. etvraviraja Says:

    i agree with you
    our problem seems to be “athi buddhivanthike”

  35. rar Says:

    kempe gowda was a nobody. a dime a dozen chief with a mud fort. so he did that bullock thing and supposedly defined the borders of the town. he has basically NOTHING to do with bangalore being well known agglomeration of 65 lakh people today. Tipu, Haider ali, and even Shahuji Bhosle have been major reasons political power accumulated in the region.
    more important than all of that has been the strategic location of the city. the natives of bangalore district, the kempe gowdas, have just been around watching and should just be happy to be making a killing speculating in property. its like asking the the bombay international airport to be named after some koli fishman village headman.

  36. kannadada kudi Says:

    If you support Tipu / Shahuji Bhosle( who ever!!!) that’s awesome, but that does not mean that you have to defame and disrespect other benevolent rulers/leaders of our state. What you have written is equivalent to saying Christopher Columbus was a directionally challenged bozo who happened to come upon America .. and he did not really “find it” so should not be credited for it. Grow up please!!!

  37. tarlesubba Says:

    kaangeya i agree. this whole thread is a troll thread. it started with the post itself. biggest troll is kp’s question on ka architecture. i am very very very disappointed with that.

    i like our squares and clean lines. so many pushkarnis and kalyanis basadis etc dotting village after village and town after town in ka on that theme.

  38. tarlesubba Says:

    yo rar,

    read a book & perhaps get a clue

  39. rar Says:

    kannadada kudi…you’re equating kempe gowda with christopher columbus? what parallel universe are we living in now. i dont support tipu or shahuji(who if you don’t know, begs the question that you should even be debating bangalore history here). i think that they should probably just keep it as BIA.
    i just think that this mythologizing of kempe gowda is absurd. he never ruled our state. i didnt say he was not wise or benevolent. i have no evidence either way. he probably never ruled more than 10,000 people. the size of a large village in modern india. no historical documents outside of his own inscriptions contemporary with his life even find it worthy to mention his existence. for any and every village in karnataka if we go back 500 years we will find the story of some local leader like kempe gowda

  40. Vishnu Kumar Says:

    Dear old mysorean and /or the doc

    I will comment and read whatever i want to.

    Just because you are ‘old or your a Dr’ doesn’t mean you are have the last word here or the best. This is a free country, just so that you know.

    Why I am putting my thoughts here is because i study architecture.

    Architecture should represent the culture and society of the time, like halebedu and hampi for the time did for their time.
    The people of our time are massively diverse and progressive. Our architecture has to represent that.

    Your conservative view, that archi in karnataka today is only of historic monuments of the is appauling. Karnatak today is what its history has made it, including the sultans, moughals and the British. And in more recent history, contemporary western culture.

    Putting a massive granite sculpture in the airport (like bangkok airport) would a careless decision. Look at the UB buildings the facade has been claded with granite (though i think they could have done a better job with more thought), good stuff their.

    I don’t think the building should be overly urban, i think urban architecture should be tied down with the setting of the airpoet (i.e blr, kar, ind). There should be features of these monuments you have mentioned, i have expressed that in my previous posts.

    I don’t have a problem of any ‘outsiders’ working in karnataka, as so long as they take to the common culture and merge within the society. I refuse to talk to shopkeepers/sales people in their language and force them to talk in the local lingo.

    If there is a problem in your place of work, why don’t you talk up, accuse the man of being biased towards malus. Walk the talk sire.

    And doc why don’t you do something if u feel the farmers haven’t had their word herd. I dont know anything about the situation, but would be glad to stand for the cause.

    rgards from a local bangalore boy.

  41. Amrit Yegnanarayan Says:

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