Edmonton’s New First Impression

About six years ago I travelled to Los Angeles for the Portable Media Expo. We had a great time at the event and got to spend a little bit of time afterward doing some sightseeing. I don’t remember much of that, to be honest, but there is one experience that has always stuck with me: my first impression upon arriving at LAX. Having never been to Los Angeles before, the picture I had in my head of the city and everything in it was modern and glamorous. I mean, it’s a famous city and is home to Hollywood, right? That picture applied to LAX itself too, especially considering its iconic airport code. The reality was much different, however. The part of the airport that we experienced seemed small, old, unattractive, and dirty. It certainly wasn’t a positive first impression.

For a long time, I think you could say the same about Edmonton’s airport. Things got a little better with the last expansion, but I still find that the first impression leaves much to be desired. You’ve probably heard the saying that “first impressions are lasting impressions” and I think that’s particularly true when you visit a new city. Even if a visitor makes it to the Art Gallery of Alberta, the river valley, or any of the other memorable attractions that Edmonton has to offer, it can be incredibly difficult to get over a negative first impression at the airport, especially considering you have to go through the facility again to leave.

That’s one of the reasons that I am particularly excited about Expansion 2012. It will change visitors’ first impressions upon arriving in Edmonton for the better.

When you fly through an airport like Heathrow in London, you rarely have to wait for your bags after arriving. That’s because it takes so long to walk from the gate to the baggage carousel – the airport is just so big! In Edmonton, you almost always arrive at the baggage carousel before your bags do. That frustrates travellers and contributes to the poor first impression. With Expansion 2012, the walk in from the gate will take longer, and that should mean less waiting around for your bags.

Expansion 2012

But don’t worry, chances are you won’t even notice that the walk takes longer. That’s due in part to the moving walkways that have been installed, but more importantly it is because of Flightpath, a digital light and sound system created by Electroland (of Los Angeles, wouldn’t you know it). The interactive installation features motion sensors that pick up movement and activate the sound and LED lights. It’s kind of hard to describe, so here it is in action:

At the end of the Interstitial Corridor is the new entrance, with Canada Customs on the main level (opening this summer) and the new International/Domestic Lounge on the second level (opening this fall). It’s big, open, bright, and inviting – everything our current entrance is not. Prominently featured is The Living Wall, a two-storey green wall that will serve double duty as an art piece and an air filtration system. Coming this summer is The Raven: Bringer of Light, a ceiling-hung stainless steel and embossed acrylic sculpture created by Michael Hayden that is 30 feet by 18 feet and weighs 3500 pounds. It sounds impressive, and I can’t wait to see it.

Expansion 2012

Airports need to be functional first and foremost, but they can’t stop there. A city’s airport plays a significant role in shaping a visitor’s opinions, and as such needs to deliver an experience that is both relaxing and memorable. Expansion 2012 no doubt makes the Edmonton International Airport more functional, but it also delivers a much improved first impression for visitors. That’s ultimately good for both EIA and for Edmonton.

You can check out a few more photos in my Expansion 2012 photoset.

  • EIA

    Thank you for your “first impressions!” Wonderful article!

  • Well said.  I feel the same way and think the Expansion2012 has put a huge step forward in accomplishing this. 

  • Clay

    I already posted this on EIA’s FB Expansion page: I find it somewhat upsetting that EIA chose to outsource the interactive LED/Sound installation to a US supplier (and who knows how much else). There are design/installtion companies in our own backyard fully capable of designing and installing things like this (and far more impressive too). Vancouver’s EOS Lightmedia or CDM2 Lightworks or Montreal’s Moment Factory (all of which have designed and installed countless world-class themed attractions). Both Electroland and Michael Hayden are based in California??!. EIA needs to look no further than their own backyard to find world class talent to showcase our city.