Fantastic Journal has an interesting article on Terminal Five and the modern airport:
Airports are the quintessential contemporary building type, the symbolic target for terrorists and the rallying point for environmentalists. They are the manifestation of our desires and the focus of our fears. Spatially they are highly complex, a warren of labyrinthine corridors, border controls and security tape. Terminal 5 – like Foster’s Stanstead – strives to transcend the reality of endless queues and sock shops, harking back to the grand spaces of Victorian railway sheds, but the grim realities of immigration control always brings such flights of fancy back down to earth… Airplane travel today is a weird echo of 1950’s Service-with-a-Smile faux-luxury combined with the degrading intrusiveness of contemporary security arrangements. It’s hard to equate the optimism of vintage BAOC adverts with the humiliation of thousands of people being forced to take their toothpaste through security in a clear plastic bag."
In a lot of respects, I rather liked Terminal Five. Victorians looking at the Crystal Palace or St Pancras Station must have felt the way I did when looking at it. That sort of gleaming futurism is rather uncommon in Britain. With that said, my main recollection of it was the contrast between the gleaming high-tech character of the building and the rather generic anonymity of the building interior; the effect of the contrast is rather bathetic. Terminal Five is in short, the perfect representation of what Marc Auge called the ‘non-place:’