In an ever-changing world, you need robustness, an in-depth approach and responsibility to innovate. For me, it is a delicate balance between knowledge and research to serve community needs at all times; one must be prepared to deliver in this way.

As part of my series about “developments in the travel industry over the next five years”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Luis Vidal.

Luis Vidal is an international, award-winning architect and founder of luis vidal + architects. Under his leadership, the firm has adopted a clear philosophy and strategic mission: to create architecture that does more. Vidal has a worldwide practice with a workforce of over 180 architects and offices in the United States, Spain, the United Kingdom, Japan, the Dominican Republic and Chile. In his leadership role, Vidal has planned over 200 projects, including the Pittsburgh International Airport, Boston Logan International Airport and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. He has received international recognition for implementing challenging ideas on large-scale, complex buildings such as airports, office buildings, museums, university campuses and more. Vidal’s philosophy relies on improving quality of life through design.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My philosophy relies on improving the quality of life through architecture. It was formed during my days as a student. I studied abroad at the University of Greenwich in London, so I was often traveling. I found airports inhospitable and thought: why can’t we improve the passenger experience and have the same processes improved? Even then, I recognized the value of taking a holistic approach to architecture design. I felt that modern-day architecture should “work harder” and be excellent to achieve broader social, environmental and economic goals. My thesis on London City Airport was written in 1994 with these concepts in mind. An airport often informs a traveler’s first and last impression of a city, region or country. It must mirror its community. It must provide for a positive and memorable experience at a facility that is, at the best of times, busy, crowded and stressful.

Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?

In an ever-changing world, you need robustness, an in-depth approach and responsibility to innovate. For me, it is a delicate balance between knowledge and research to serve community needs at all times; one must be prepared to deliver in this way.

One of the things that has differentiated luis vidal + architects from the beginning has been that vocation to go ahead and anticipate new challenges. For almost 20 years, we have allocated a large percentage of time and resources to our R + D department, where we anticipate problems, seek new solutions and honor the concept of “innovation” on a daily basis. We have been pioneers in the use of virtual reality and augmented reality, which we continue applying to our airport work, adapting to future mobility models and excelling in optimizing passenger flows and terminal staff, to mention some examples.

We have achieved excellence in the values that differentiate us in the travel industry and for which we are recognized: intuitive wayfinding, passenger freedom, efficient use of natural and artificial light, vegetation, color, texture, outdoor terraces, etc. — values we have taken to the highest level of quality.

That excellence in innovation is also behind NaTeCo (Nature-Technology-Community) , a unique concept that I developed for Pittsburgh International Airport’s new Terminal Modernization project, which luis vidal + architects worked on in association with Gensler and HDR. NaTeCo encapsulates the physical nature of the region with its rolling hills and greenery, the city’s transformation into a technology hub and its vibrant community in one single idea. The future terminal, which is seeking a LEED Silver certification, will be the first airport to be independently powered by a microgrid, featuring thousands of solar panels and five natural gas generators fueled by onsite wells capable of creating over 20 megawatts of electricity.

Some other examples of luis vidal + architects’ vision for innovation are the prismatic painted roof on Boston Logan Airport’s Terminal E Modernization, the dynamic glass on the Terminal D expansion at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport and the vertiport model that we are developing to adapt the future of aerial mobility. All these projects are a confirmation of my genuine commitment to innovation.

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation and how do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?

Demographic concentration in urban areas and connectivity have placed airports at the center of the social and economic scene. Are cities ready to take on this passenger traffic? What experience can they offer to users? Which will be the impact on the environment? The airport industry’s funding shortfall poses significant challenges to modernizing infrastructure to improve sustainability and resilience. These are not new challenges for airport developers and designers, but there is an ever-growing demand for sustainability in the face of climate change, as well as pandemic-propelled health concerns. However, returning growth on the needed investments will provide favorable conditions.

Architecture must become the guarantor of air infrastructure excellence and success. As I mentioned, intuitive orientation, good use of natural light, color, acoustics… All this must be used to make the travel experience as satisfying and pleasant as possible, tailor-made to meet travelers’ expectations and create positive and unforgettable memories.

Nowadays, airports are the first and last image a traveler receives of a city. They are the main gateway to and from each country. They have become the cathedrals of the 21st century. This is why at luis vidal + architects we envision modern, flexible and practical terminals. Capable of adapting to the passage of time and the challenges of the future. Places of encounter and activity, dedicated to the well-being of users and with a deep sense of public service.

As you know, COVID-19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share a few examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?

The COVID-19 pandemic has been quite a challenge for air travel and has highlighted outdated airport designs and practices. The world of travel is in continuous transformation, so airports need to adapt to those changes to balance the freedom of movement without the fear of uncertainty.

Social norms around personal space, especially post-pandemic, are rapidly changing. One solution is to retrofit, modernize and broaden existing airports to be more sustainable and environmentally responsible. Broadening uses of airport areas to include open space, a taste of the outdoors, and pavilion-like regions with ceilings that allow for sunlight exposure and reduces travel anxiety.

Both as a result of COVID-19 and just innovation in general, we’ve grown accustomed to digital tools that provide additional layers of safety and security. These security and public health-related systems are becoming the norm in airports. We will see the birth of new technologies utilizing artificial intelligence and big data to process information collected. In addition to health innovations, updates to existing thermal imaging for security applications include new machines that are quiet and less visible. Ongoing digitization requires architects to envision unique spaces able to leverage technological progress.

Airports reflect what is going on in the world and manifest our need for flexible transformation that will prepare them for the oncoming evolution in air travel.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Stay up to date with luis vidal + architects’ latest news and projects on and on our social media pages: LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.