Dulles International Airport (for Washington D.C.)

Eero Saarinen 1962

The spacious terminal building of Washington DC's international airport is structurally exciting both outside and in. A huge concrete sheet is slung between two asymmetric rows of concrete hooks, creating an inviting and dynamic curve as you approach. Invisibly within the concrete, it is steel suspension-bridge cables between the hooks that support the weight of the concrete roof, which Saarinen described as 'like a huge, continuous hammock suspended between concrete trees.'

The simplicity of the design allowed for elegant expansion of the building in the 1990s, by adding more concrete trees at each end of the row and suspending further hammocks between them.

The outward slope of the concrete hooks counterbalances the tension in the cables supporting the roof sheet; Saarinen, in his own words, 'exaggerated and dramatized' the slope to create the building's 'dynamic and soaring look'.

'While Dulles remains a modern monument to the confluence of use and imagery... it is also handicapped by its uniqueness. No lessons flowed from this building because, apart from copying it, there was no way to expand its application. In the end Saarinen's was, like Wright's, an architecture of emotion applied to specific requirements and sites.'

Carter Wiseman in Shaping a Nation, 1998

Saarinen died in 1961, a year before the building was completed. 

Simon Glynn 2001 (updated 2006)


How to visit

Dulles International Airport is about an hour's drive from Washington DC, with plenty of public transport options available - see the airport's web site below.

Books and other web sites

www.metwashairports.com/Dulles/ is the airport's web site, with comprehensive maps and information about getting to the airport.Dulles logo(The airport's logo appreciates its architecture)

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