Growing up I was forever hearing the comment ‘it must have been designed by a man’ in reference to anything that was used primarily by the fairer sex. I’ll give you a few examples – the speculum; the pram; the bra (the fastening in particular); stilettos. The thinking behind the comment was always – if a man had to….then it would be a better design. Why not design a better one yourself I would always say, thinking not only was it was a most unfair comment but if you think it’s rubbish do something about it. However, I found myself thinking the exact same thing on Friday as I stood waiting to collect my mother from the Terminal 5 International Arrivals hall. Aesthetically it ticks many points but for functionality it scores very low, and in this instance I am referring to the hall itself. Not only are there two exits from which your visitor may emerge that you have to keep your eye on but they are a hundred yards apart (or that’s what it feels like anyway); there are two broad pillars placed strategically (or so it felt) within your line of sight; the railings holding back the ‘collectors’ curves so only the people at the very middle can see both exits and, if they are tall (as everyone is in comparison to me), you cannot see past them to the other exit unless you do your Leo Sayer warm-up routine. In addition to all this the board noting arrival times is very small and only the left half displays the flights. The right half displays advertisements so I had no idea whether the flight I was expecting was delayed (until I found an official who pointed me to another board at the other end of thehall). My husband assures me that every five minutes the display changes to show the remaining flights for about a minute before flicking over to the ads again. There is a very tiny digital display of the time at the bottom right-hand corner of this board, but that is the only clock and one has to be practically under it to see it. The board I was directed to was near some seating and there is a corresponding one on at the other end of the hall, but it is so far away from the arrivals area there is no way you can see who is exiting. Also, the boards displaying the flight times are positioned perpendicular to the seating area so you are constantly crunching up and down, hoping no-one takes your seat or removes your bag to blow it up.
The only nice thing is that the coffee shop is right opposite the arrivals area – but again you have to constantly get up to check the board (at the risk of someone clearing away your coffee) and you cannot view the exits from the seating area. Nice coffee though.
So how would I redesign the area? Benches for weary souls who don’t want to buy a coffee closer to the arrivals area; In the baggage hall filter the arrivals towards either one or the other exit and display that on the board; straighten the railing cordoning off the collectors and provide a low-level foot rest all the way along (my feet were killing me after the hour and a half I had to wait); more clocks; change the displays so that flight times are shown more often than ads; adjust the flight time display near the seating area so it faces the seats not the doors – or have a set that faces the seats as well; have more clocks everywhere; change the pitch size of the fonts displaying the arrivals so one can read them without having to stand within three feet – it can get quite congested and makes it so much easier for pickpockets.
There, a few simple changes and it would make a world of difference to the experience.