Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

Reinventing airspace: spectatorship, fluidity, intimacy at pek t3

Alberto Pepe Gentile


In this article, I explore the contemporary practice of air travel conceptualizing airports
as socio-technical mobilities. Drawing both from the notion of “space” posited by Michel de
Certeau and that of “non-place” by Marc Augé, I argue that the supermodern nature of air travel
has generated forms of crisis that have embedded themselves in the architecture and the
modus operandi of contemporary airports. Airports are necessarily located in a physical and
tangible sense, yet their function is so tightly coupled with transience, mobility and
spectatorship, that they bring anthropological accounts of “place” to unprecedented extremes. In
this article, I analyze three tensions that are inherently bound to the contemporary practice of air
travel and that present themselves as symbiotic phenomena: spectatorship/solitude,
fluidity/control, intimacy/sameness. I explore the presence and interplay of these tensions in the
spatial (spectatorship), technological (fluidity) and physical (intimacy) arrangements of the
recently completed Terminal 3 at Beijing's International Airport.

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