Airport passenger terminals are typically noticed only in passing by the travelers that use them each day. Focused on efficiency for the “check-in” of travelers,these buildings do not usually rank under the top ten known architectural monuments. Nevertheless, icons, such as Eero Saarinen’s TWA Flight Center in New York, have written architectural history. There are also examples of exceptional transportation facilities in Germany as well. When a decision was made in the 1950s to expand the West German government’s heavily used Cologne Bonn Airport, engineering plans and architectural ideas came together. The terminal, constructed from designs by architect and designer Paul Schneider-Esleben (1915–2005) and inaugurated in 1970, unifies functionality, contemporary modernity, and high design standards down to the last detail.
This study is the first to trace the planning and design process through its essential stages. Relying on contemporary document and image sources, it considers the building in its historical context. Moreover, it also asks to what extent the innovative Cologne/Bonn Airport solution is a role model for subsequent airport buildings.