I approach airports with the same mentality as shopping at IKEA: in and out, as fast as humanly possible, with the least amount of damage to my psyche. San Francisco International Airport's new Terminal 2 is an exception. I actually arrived an hour earlier than necessary for my return flight east to explore and (gasp!) enjoy.
Just opened in mid-April, the new T2 was designed by Gensler to create an "easy and memorable experience" for travelers. Here are some of the highlights:
Art. There is art everywhere at T2. From entrance to gate, there are large scale installations, rotating gallery exhibits, murals. It gives you something to look at while receiving that full-body scan.
Food. There's nothing worse than getting stuck at the gate with no access to decent coffee (or fresh fruit, a strong cocktail, a tasty sandwich, etc). With celebrity chef restaurant Cat Cora, a full wine bar, Peet's Coffee & Tea and even a Pinkberry, T2 has all of the bases covered.
Shopping. Sure, there's the tchotchke shop and the newsstand, but there's also actual clothing stores, a spa, a full wine shop and gourmet food store. It feels like an upscale mall.
Varied seating. There are comfortable benches right after security so you can put your shoes on with dignity. There's central food court seating so you don't have to balance a salad on your lap. At the gates, there are clusters of egg chairs around low round tables so you can have a conversation with your travel companions (or meet some new ones). Even those rows of standard airport seating are abundant and comfortable.
Connectability. Though it's nice that more airports are adding those towered plug-in stations, they are always taken before I get a spot. At T2, there are outlets every few seats at the gates, as well as raised workstations with plugs at each chair. You also get 45 minutes of free WiFi.
Airports are something we pass through on our way to somewhere else, but that doesn't mean that they can't be beautiful or thoughtfully designed. I'm thrilled that the people behind T2 agree-- It made my time in San Francisco all the more pleasant.
Images: Tara Bellucci