London Life Places

heathrow terminal 5

February 21, 2013

I often bang on about my love for terminal 5, also known as T5. Last week, on my return from a short trip, i decided to snap a few pictures to show you the wonderful architecture and explain myself.

You see, i’ve always been a fan of british airways. I know that they mess up from time to time, i know about the union strikes, the lost luggage scenarios and that shumbles of the BA ethnic livery back at the end of the 90’s. Who could ever forget that fiasco? 

And yet they are the first website i visit upon booking a flight. Please understand that i like many airlines, both the national carriers as well as the budget ones (maybe with the exception of ryanair:-) but my preference is always BA when it comes to european flights, which is mostly what i take! I think it’s the wonderful crew and ground staff that do it for me. Always knowledgeable, professional and helpful!

So, it came as no surprise that i rejoiced at the news of a dedicated terminal for my beloved airline. Opened in 2008, it is designed to handle 35 million passengers a year. The building’s leading architects were richard rogers partnership. The building cost some £4 billion and took and astonishing 19 years from conception to completion, including the longest public inquiry in british history. Welcome to T5.


Listening to my parent’s stories of air travel in the 50’s, it conjures images of elegance and sophistication. A friend of mine was actually a stewardess back in the days for BOAC and i love listening to her stories of serving the glamourous celebrities.

Today, the world of flying is open to all of us (thankfully) but i still believe that a little sophistication, less stress and a good flying experience go a long way. For me that combination is flying with BA from T5.

As soon as you get to departures, you see this (below). An incredibly beautiful and well-designed hall which encourages ease of navigation with clear signage and atmospheric lighting throughout. I’ve never seen it much fuller than this. It often looks empty, but not for a lack of passengers departing. It’s simply the fantastic layout and design thinking behind how to best deal with the millions of people coming through this space.

Honestly, every single time i’ve flown from here it takes no more than 10 minutes to get through security allowing for enough time to visit duty-free, various shops and get something to eat. It’s a sheer breeze, a true pleasure.




There’s so much glass and i’m always fascinated by the reflections in this building. Take a look.





Once you land you’re ushered towards passport control, mostly only a couple of minutes walk away from disembarking the plane.


Again, a well-designed and signage strong place which gives you the feeling no-one is ever there.



Best not to photograph too much while waiting to show your passports…  when getting a close up of this light, i suddenly decided to put away my camera with massive lens for fear that i would be stopped and questioned;-)


Baggage claim. Hello Yoda! Now, throughout the terminal you have very big screens displaying digital advertising. The screens are so beautifully designed and minimal that all advertising looks good and simultaneously lends you some atmospheric lighting. Genius!




The arrival hall is cleverly colour coded and once again you’re in and out within seconds, helped by the outstanding signage.


Here are just a few more shots showing some of the wonderful architecture, but if truth be told, i was tired and just wanted to get home.





There cannot be a colourliving post without a proper pop of colour! This machine is designed to screen outsized baggage. Love the red!!


And finally if you’re going into london you can either take the tube…


or the heathrow express, a bus or like me, you simply wait for your car being delivered to the terminal by valet parking! Done! Home sweet home, not long now!


I hope you’ve enjoyed my mini-tour around T5. Personally, i have high hopes for the new terminal 2, due to open in 2014.

Of course, the debate continues around heathrow’s 3rd runway, to be decided by 2015. Britain needs at least one new runway in the south east by 2020 to compete with the rest of the world. To put some perspective here, china built 33 airports between 2006 and 2010 and another 45 are planned to be in use by 2015. I say, britain get your skates on!

Have you been through T5? See you monday!

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  • Reply Gerard @WalnutGrey February 21, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    I didn’t know you were such a BA fan. I do love that you’ve taken us on a visual journey through an airport terminal. Heathrow T5 is a fantastic structure and definitely a more people friendly one. Lots of glass, steel and light… music to my ears 🙂

    British bureaucracy is a nightmare. I often wish our officials were a bit more like those in China where they just get on with it. Consultation is important, but it drags on forever here. I agree that Britain needs to get its skates on and cut that red tape.

    I’ve been in T5 once – passing through on my way to & from Washington DC. Unfortunately when I fly BA from Belfast to London, we go into the utterly depressing and void of any light, Terminal 1. That was BMI’s terminal, but now BA have bought BMI, maybe they’ll move the Belfast flights to T5 – I can but hope.

    Thanks darlin’ for the fab T5 trip xx

    • Reply tina February 21, 2013 at 3:13 pm

      I told you this week was a Mr.Grey week on my blog:-) now don’t get too comfortable, will you?

      I’m so over that stuff. You know, while other economies are progressing (Germany, as per new Monocle issue) the UK is faffing around with consultations. Crossrail 1&2 London to China not till 2018/2020. High Speed 2 Phase 1 – 2026 and Phase 2 -2033.. didn’t I read somewhere that the Chinese have completed train travel from China to Europe in record time already??? I’d say, get a move on Britain!

      I have the exact same story to share with you. Over Christmas I flew to Düsseldorf. As per usual I booked T5. About a week before departure as I’m booking my valet parking (have to give them terminal of departure) I literally thought BA made a mistake so called them up to advise them of their error!!!
      Lo and behold, exactly the same as you. That route was also serviced by BMI etc etc etc.. I was horrified and now double check before I book any routes with BA. The Terminal 1 experience is dire and rather depressing. Apparently they are still shuffling things around…. roll on 2014 and Terminal 2 I say!!!! xx

      BTW, for anyone reading this. If you buy from duty free on your departure and, like me, often only carry hand luggage, you actually can buy as much as you wish and have it kept for you. On your arrival, as you exit from customs, someone will be there waiting for you with your paid purchases. #justsaying

  • Reply Nicola February 21, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    You sure know how to travel, honey!

    Wonderful photos as ever, Tina, of a great piece of architecture that functions brilliantly for the user x

    • Reply tina February 21, 2013 at 11:06 pm

      Ha! I think I’m at the age where I can have a little luxury, right??

      Thanks darling. Yes, it’s a really nice terminal xx

  • Reply Doris February 21, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    Tina, you put a smile on my face with this post because a) I have actually been to a place that you have blogged about (this is a first) and b) I too love the architectural interior of terminal 5. And having travelled extensively arriving at a really really nicely designed airport does make a world of difference. So it’s win win over here… lovely photo’s as usual. xD

    • Reply tina February 21, 2013 at 11:10 pm

      Doris, this really made me chuckle…”I have actually been to a place that you have blogged about (this is a first)”…
      I’m completely delighted about the fact that you love it and I so get it… especially you with a child.

      Love the ‘win win”.. hope there’ll be more!!

      Sorry you won’t join The MTB Design Tour on the Sunday but I really look forward to meeting you on the Saturday (about time, don’t you agree???)
      Thanks D xx

      • Reply Doris February 21, 2013 at 11:15 pm

        I’m glad that I managed to make you chuckle. You really did make my evening and I did forget to mention that I’ve been able to wrangle things so that I can indeed attend the Design Tour – yippee and I’m really looking forward to it (no pressure) and to finally meeting you… have a good weekend. xD

        • Reply tina February 21, 2013 at 11:25 pm

          Oh wow, that’s exciting. Geraldine is also coming.

          Pressure indeed. Trying to make it interesting but worry as many Londoners on the tour:-)
          Excited to meet you!! xx

  • Reply noreen February 22, 2013 at 4:08 am

    that terminal is well designed, and your photos captured it beautifully. someday i’ll come see for myself! joy to you, n

    • Reply tina February 25, 2013 at 11:45 pm

      Thanks Noreen. I do hope you’ll come over one day:-)

  • Reply owls house london. February 22, 2013 at 10:29 am

    I absolutely, completely agree! and your images are stunning.

    • Reply tina February 25, 2013 at 11:46 pm

      Thank you so much, very kind of you!

  • Reply Alison Sye February 22, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Another great post Tina, your photos are always such a feast for the eyes. You don’t have to convince me about this, I love it already. It’s the urbanness of it, delicious. Really like the ‘A Warm Welcome To Our Home’, I could actually live there I reckon.

    • Reply tina February 25, 2013 at 11:47 pm

      Haha. “I could live there”…you are funny. It is truly an great experience.. and thanks for the compliment x

  • Reply James Balston February 22, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Lovely pics. When it comes to UK airport architecture, T5 is a beauty among beasts! I was lucky enough to shoot it for CN Traveller just days before it opened. Loved it. Roll on T2!

    • Reply tina February 25, 2013 at 11:49 pm

      Oh, thanks James, coming from a pro – means a lot! Wow, would love to see the pics you took for CN Traveller.

      Yay, can’t wait for T2, should be stunning!

  • Reply We Heart Home February 22, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    FABULOUS! I’m sharing this with P, he’s going to love it! Your pics are great, highlighting the architecture and yes, all those reflections are so beatiful. P and I used to like to just go hang out at Frankfurt airport when we lived beside it – which I find also often has that “empty” feeling you were describing.

    Very fun to learn you are such a BA fan 🙂 Who knows, maybe one day P will fly for BA and we’ll come live in London and I’ll buy a scooter and we’ll zipp around the city all day making fun discoveries! I’m having a very imaginative day today 😉

    Xx. Holly.

    • Reply tina February 25, 2013 at 11:52 pm

      Hope that P enjoyed!!

      Frankfurt airport is interesting. Terminal 1 is always heaving but massive, you can spend a whole day there shopping, eating etc.
      I prefer flying into Terminal 2, where BA flies into. It’s more like a morgue… empty, but beautiful!

      Love your daydreaming… who knows, it could turn into reality one day. Keep at it! Thanks Holly xx

  • Reply leah of sang the bird February 23, 2013 at 8:04 am

    Stunning! So much glass… I love the possibilities that airport terminals hold! I dream of travelling to Europe…. Thanks for indulging me xx

    • Reply tina February 25, 2013 at 11:53 pm

      Yes, agreed. Airports hold so much hope, excitement, dreams… I’d love you to come to Europe, but you know that already, right?? xx

  • Reply Michaela February 24, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Your photos are always so inspiring Tina. You seem to spot things that other people miss – I really like the way you’ve framed the geometry – reminds me of one of my fave online resources – and in a really good way too! 🙂 xx

    • Reply tina February 25, 2013 at 11:55 pm

      Thanks M.. gosh, I take that as a huge compliment! Patternity is amazing….. glad you enjoyed xx

  • Reply Catherine Bedson February 25, 2013 at 11:53 pm

    I love airports, as Leah said “the possibilities”. There is nothing better than arriving at a beautiful, modern airport. Hope it won’t be to long before I can come and check it out for myself one day! Amazing design and photos. xx

    • Reply tina February 25, 2013 at 11:58 pm

      Yes, can we have a world conference or re-union and all meet up. Can you imagine???
      Gosh, I’m now off to daydream…..xx

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