Bounce Trip: IAD
This week included a "bounce" trip to DC, in order to give a presentation at a conference. The conference center (more about that later) has a shuttle straight to and from IAD, so I flew BOS-IAD (and actually got bumped to First Class... whoah).
Arriving at the terminal building, I had to look up at the soaring ceiling, and say, "Yep, very nice, Mr. Saarinen."
If you didn't see it previously, I geeked out about Eero Saarinen, the architect, on a previous trip to DC. There was an exhibit at the National Building Museum; one of my reactions was:
As much as I harsh on modernism, Saarinen aesthetics were pretty spectacular--they really create this 1960's-Jetsons-here's-our-cool-future aesthetic that gives me nostalgia for an era before my time.
If you care for more photos of the terminal, there are a bunch of them at Great Buildings Online. The night photos are quite striking.
The other fun thing about Dulles is that it has these ridiculous-looking "mobile lounges," to take passengers to and from the concourse buildings. They link up to the main building, and look for all the world like goofy 1970's science fiction prop vehicles, with big balloon tires, and a cab that rises up and down:
I have always chortled at the name, "mobile lounge." Oh yeah, set us up with a disco ball, some beanbag chairs, and a thumpin' bass sound system, and I think we're all set. Although that red carpet really has to go...
I have long wondered, "Did they not realize that, just maybe, a tunnel connecting these buildings might not be a bad idea? Like every other airport that I've been in?! Well... as usual, Wikipedia to the rescue:
Dulles is one of the few remaining airports to use the "mobile lounges" and "plane mates" for boarding and disembarkation from aircraft, to transfer passengers between the midfield concourses and to and from the main terminal building. ... The MWAA plans to retire the mobile lounge system for inter-terminal passenger movements in favor of the underground people mover and pedestrian walkway system (now in service to concourse B). However, some plane mates will remain in use to disembark international passengers and carry them to the International Arrivals Building, as well as to convey passengers to and from aircraft on hard stand (i.e., those parked remotely on the apron without access to jet bridges).
Aha... the original plan was to use these mobile lounges to link up directly with aircraft! Fair enough--check out the Plane Mate manufacturer's page... lower down on the page they show that linkup... pretty neat.
Anyway, it sounds like the "mobile lounges" are being replaced by an automated tramway system. Unbelievably, I had time at Dulles, but failed to earmark time to check out their geeky exhibit on the tramway. Dammit!
I actually walked by the tramway without noticing--I was taking a shot of the neat structural elements here... those closed in glass areas are the tramways. My flight was out of one of the D gates, which is not connected by the tramway system.
I hopped the shuttle to my conference--it was being held at the National Conference Center (NCC)--it is absolutely gigantic, out in (formerly) middle-of-nowhere Virgina... but now being surrounded by brand-new exurban townhouses. But check it out--they have postcards of this place... wow... that rivals airport postcards in ridiculousness!
The interior is filled with windowless conference rooms, and you can get completely turned around very easily (okay, where is N4-226?). Check out the aerial view... it seems like some type of insane ancient fortification or step-pyramid ruin in its architectural style.
It made me want to riff into...
[PBS Announcer Voice:] The ancient Ziggurats of N'CC, located on the banks of the Potomac River, were only recently re-discovered by explorers this past decade. Its structures enclose 265,000 square feet (24,600 m2), and contain 250 conference rooms, an athletic facility, and 917 guest rooms. The best reconstruction of the historical record show that it was hewn from the raw forests of Virginia circa 1970. Its maze-like passages were known to have trapped countless conference attendees, who were forced to subsist on cookies and coffee from the break stations until they could find their way out again. Archaeologists are still working to decipher the color coding of their mysterious "living-learning modules." It still stands today as a testament to the technical prowess and fortitude of the Beltwei peoples.
Overall, though: traveling ~8 hours round trip to give a 1-1/2 hour presentation... man, that's pretty rough on the system. Ugh. Hey, it's Friday now.