When it comes to architectural delights, airport terminals come pretty low on the list. As the writer Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, once wrote: "It is no coincidence that in no known language does the phrase 'As pretty as an airport' appear."
Flying may have become cheaper and more accessible over the years, but the experience itself has never been more onerous. A recent study found that one third of Brits who fly now believe that being at an airport is more stressful than the working week, with nearly a quarter saying it is worse than moving house.
Gone are the glory days, when travel used to be romantic, glamourous, exotic. The modern international airport is often nothing more than a huge processing factory, with long queues, dreary decor and claustrophobic surroundings.
So thank goodness there are some designers out there who believe that this needn't be so. By making a courageous attempt to design beautiful, airy spaces that are a pleasure to travel through, they're pushing boundaries and making life just that little bit better for travellers.
While they might not be able to assist you with that flight delay or invasive security pat down, in trying to create attractive places that accomodate your comfort and minimise stress, we at AOL Travel are cheering them on.
So we're happy to see that the travel guide experts at Frommer's has just released its list of most attractive airports. Check them out below - and let us know if you have an airport you think should be added.
The world's most beautiful airports
Revealed! The world's most beautiful airports
Designed by architect Santiago Calatrava, Bilbao's main airport terminal is known as "the dove". Frommer's describes it thus: "sharply-canted curves and lots of light streaming through, and bisected by, ribs which resemble cables."
Designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, this spacious, modern terminal boasts "by far the best airport food court in New York". Frommer's also calls it "one of the greatest icons of the mid-20th century jet age." Praise indeed.
This huge, light-filled terminal, with its expansive spaces and undulating ceilings, was designed by Richard Rogers and Antonio Lamela and went on to win the RIBA Stirling Prize for architecture in 2006. "This is an unusually intelligently designed terminal... Even when the terminal is full it never feels oppressively crowded," says Frommer's.
This airport looks has been compared to a Moroccan palace, twenty-first century style, with classic Islamic geometric and nature motifs inscribed into a giant network of concrete diamonds. "You could make a strong argument that the whole thing is one giant artwork," says Frommer's in its review.
Praise is lavished on this airport, not least for its entertainment factor. "Seoul's secret is to make sure that you're never more than a few steps away from an entertaining, elightening or amusing bit of Korean culture," says Frommer's. Scattered throughout, you'll find hands-on Korean craft workshops, a dress-up area where you can take photos in traditional clothing, plus "the best free internet cafes you've ever seen, a museum, and plenty of places to take a comfortable nap."
Is this an airport or an amusement park? Home to a butterfly garden, an 18ft waterfall, a huge indoor playground, a movie theatre, TV lounges and a huge four-storey spiral slide "that's a lot more fun than taking the elevator," says Frommer's. There's even an outdoor swimming pool...
This rugged, artistically constructed airport terminal has also been named the world's ugliest - but it's all a matter of taste. Opened last year, the Rock's egg-shaped buildings covered in copper is designed to turn blue-green in the sea air. Says Frommer's: "Inside, curving corners and geometric panels play peekaboo." Very posh.
Montevideo's airport terminal, designed by Rafael Vinoly, is described by Frommer's as "a smooth dome, looking from the front a bit like a whale's mouth; inside, lines are smooth, clean and calm, with grand terraces overlooking the runways and arrival areas."
This airport is unique in many ways. For a start, it's only active diring the "hajj" - the pilgrimage to Mecca for Muslims. During this period, it's one of the busiest airport terminals in the world. According to Architectural Record, it is made of 210 open-air white fibreglass tents which create a chimney effect that can cool the scorching desert air by 50 degrees without air conditioning. It received the American Institue of Architects 25-year award.