Inaugurated in 2022, the Maharaja Bir Bikram Terminal is located 12 km northwest of the city of Agartala. Supporting 20 check-in counters and four aerobridges, among other facilities, the terminal spans an area of 30000 sqm. The new integrated terminal, designed by Creative Group LLP under the leadership of Prof. Charanjit S. Shah (Founding Principal) and Ar. Gurpreet S. Shah (Principal Architect and Urban Designer) stands out as a remarkable project in the northeastern region of India. The visionary approach of the Creative Group LLP has resulted in a terminal that not only addresses the practical aspects of passenger traffic but also pays homage to the local culture and heritage of Tripura.
Inspired by the local architecture, art and heritage of Tripura, the new terminal and its interior design derive its visual character from references to the vernacular potpourri of the northeast. The design elements draw inspiration from local architecture, art, and heritage elements. Using bamboo architecture, floral jali patterns, and tribal stone sculptures reflects the region’s rich natural and cultural diversity. Elements of Biophilia; Skylights, courtyards, and green spaces contribute to a well-lit and aesthetically pleasing environment.
In the exterior, a contemporary-styled exterior curve draws inspiration from the hilly terrain of Tripura by connecting the roof to the floor in a combined awe of authority and grace. The roads and walkways to the airport’s entrance are lined with greenery, which is the foreground of the facade with large brown motifs and laminated glazing, reinforcing the imagery of local forests.
On the front facade, the glass panels are interrupted by large-sized floral jaalis extending from the floor to the roof as if to resemble trees, a metaphor for the anticipated shade of the interior. Made of GFRC (Glass-Fibre Reinforced Concrete) in a bamboo-coloured finish, the brown hues of the motif are the main colour on the facade during the day and provide glimpses of the interior at night amidst the intervals of structural glazing on the facade.
Inside the terminal, a 30 ft-high ceiling greets the incoming travellers with skylights. One of the most prominent biophilic interventions in the structure, skylights incorporate diffused light and allow for its temporal nature to breathe a sense of the ever-changing exterior inside the terminal constantly. The structural members of the ceiling are a perforated metal ceiling element in bamboo finish. This element seeks to reinforce the fluid-like flow of the plan by virtue of its curved shape throughout its length through the terminal.
A well-defined bulkhead delineates the floor area from the ceiling with retail offerings and strategic pathways to direct the passenger traffic. With the bulkhead as a brown visual backdrop, the design displays a series of inlay motifs representing cultural artefacts in bamboo. They tell the story of the rich cultural heritage of Tripura while resonating with the flowing curves of the ceiling in the backdrop. On the horizon, the rear walls of check-in counters feature shiny metal cladding that serves as motifs with references to vernacular patterns on the wall.
On the floor plate of the Terminal, strategically placed Oval-shaped gardens act as landmarks that help in wayfinding and directing the flow of passengers. In an approach to architecture that connects building occupants more closely to nature, biophilic buildings intrinsically incorporate natural landscape features and other elements to create a more productive and healthy built environment for the users. In one of the central gardens, a stone sculpture display resembles the famous stonework from the rock-cut carvings of the Unakoti Hills of Tripura. Located at a central vantage point in the airport, near the escalator and the lift, the vivid carvings bring much-needed attention to the ancient sculptures tentatively listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The resplendent bamboo stems have a strikingly strong vertical visual feature. As a repeated element in this ode to the vernacular, they seem to represent an image of vigour and vitality in this vibrant display of interior landscape. The bamboo sculptures not only act as visual elements but also have long-term benefits on the physical and emotional health of the users. The visually distinct bamboo sculptures act as a landmark feature in the terminal in a display of fluidity combined with strength. Located within a composition of curves and a waterbody, the bamboo sculptures serve as a visual icon for the airport’s identity.
From the Bamboo coloured Jaali on the exterior to the real bamboo stems of the interior the terminal is rendered in a variety of hues of brown that serve as a reference for the vernacular and biophilic engagements of the design. With such a display of variety in its expression, It is only fair that the airport of such political significance bears strong metaphors as a part of its identity in the new age.