The revolutionary control tower for Sydney was designed by architects Anchor Mortlake and Woolley, consisting of a series of clover-leaf equipment pods above which was the main control tower cabin. Our role was to design the interiors of the control tower.
Access was by means of a glass lift located adjacent to a central concrete pole, and a winding metal-clad exterior escape stair which allowed air-traffic controllers to reach the ground level in case of fire. At the base were buildings housing UPS, backup generators, and maintenance areas. Three rigid steel stays kept the structure from swaying in the wind.
One of our first tasks was to investigate the roles and activities the air-traffic controllers performed, day and night. The previous control tower, built in the 1960’s, was a maze of buttons and levers, completely distracting attention from the air-traffic controller’s prime task of watching incoming and outgoing aircraft.
Part of our role was to collaborate with Air Services Australia in defining the equipment to be used and the levels of support each air–traffic controller required to perform his or her duties. Using touch-screen technology we were able to rid the space of switches and buttons, with provision for left and right-hand users.
Central to every Control Tower around the world is a manual back-up system in which each incoming or outgoing aircraft is logged on a slip of paper and mounted on a plastic slide. This slide is then passed between the controllers along a circular rail and located on a tray at each of their positions. Together with Phillips, we designed a custom LED, no-glare spotlight so that each controller could have his/her manual slide tray illuminated without affecting the computer screens, or glare appearing on the angled glass surrounding the control cabin.
Solid-surface materials and solid laminate benchtops were selected for longevity and cleanliness of the workspace. The result was a pristine working environment where air-traffic controllers could focus on the visual control of all approaching and outgoing aircraft, with technology at their fingertips.