AllyCAD Showcase

AllyCAD at Durban Airport

Themba Mtetwa ,
Mtetwa & Associates

In 1945, Heathrow was just a couple of tents in an open field. Fifty years ago, airport buildings as we know them today did not exist," says Themba Mtetwa softly.

"International airport experts set the space standards, which gave us the size of the hall," says Themba. "In 50 short years, these buildings have evolved way ahead of most buildings. We've had beautiful airports that didn't work, but with more than 1.5-billion people using airports each year, they had to work."

"There are so many factors to take into account when an airport is designed. Aspects that influence the design include the profile of the passengers, the different classes of goods, is the airport a 'destination or transition' port? For instance, Schipol Airport is a transitional airport. At least 30 million people pass through Schipol each year, yet Holland only has a population of approximately 15 million people."

"An airport is a built environment where travelers change modes of transport - in this case it is road to air and vice-versa. It is not a shopping centre that doubles as an airport. There are many factors that impact the design. Luggage for instance is a issue, does the luggage travel with people in the hold, or with people in the stowage area?" asks Themba.

"Durban has some unique characteristics. Sixty-five percent of the passengers are business people, they don't carry luggage, so we created special speed check-in counters. The passenger profile affected the type of retail that is available on the ground level. These people don't usually have much time, but they are invariably well-off and will spend given the right products and services."

"Durban has another unique quirk. It has one of the highest number of 'meeters and greeters' in the country. These are people who came to the airport to greet or bid farewell to family and friends. They spend on average around two hours at the airport; it's an outing for the whole family. We created large areas for these people to socialise in once the travelers have checked their baggage in, and before they go through to the boarding area."
  "Durban is really a composite airport," says Themba. "It is primarily a domestic mode airport, and although only 2% of the passengers are international tourists, we needed to build flexibility into the design, so that when 3 jumbos land at the same time, airport management just have to move some screens and the volume is handled easily."

"The Domestic and International facilities are common and interchangeable. There were other constraints in the existing building as well, like pillars and some late changes in the brief that added some extra pressure."

The amazing fact is that the Durban airport was designed using AllyCAD. "Before I started my own practice, I had taught myself to use AllyCAD. The manual is good and the program is very user-friendly. It only took two weeks for me to get up to speed," says a proud Themba.

"Look, we really pushed the boundaries with AllyCAD on this one. On a project like this there are many stakeholders who have to be satisfied. We started on Revision A, and went to Revision ZZ and more, but AllyCAD coped with what we threw at it," Themba says smiling. "I know that Vincent Bester at Knowledge Base has some architectural features and macros for AllyCAD that will certainly help me in the future."

"In 2006, Durban Airport will have reached its potential, after that the IATA Level C of service will have gone down below acceptability, so some sort of a plan will have to be implemented."

"I would love to work on the new building if that is what is decided," he says wistfully. "Growing up in Kwa-Thema outside the East Rand town of Springs, I always wanted to be a pilot, but under apartheid that was impossible. The bank said they would not give me money to get my pilot's license, but the manager said he would finance my other love, architecture! One day I will get my PPL and take-off from the airport that I designed," he says with chuckle.

image Themba Mtetwa is a quietly spoken architect who qualified in 1991 at University of Natal is married with three children and cycles for relaxation. A private person, he and the family seek out quiet places where they pursue joy and happiness as family.

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