Queen Elizabeth II officially opened Glasgow Airport terminal on 27 June 1966, a month after the first commercial flight landed at the airport, carrying the staff of his practice, Spence, Glover and Ferguson.
Although the airport opened in 1966, Spence Glover & Ferguson started working on the project in May 1961 when the Minister of Aviation appointed them as architects. At this time Spence, architect of the nearly-completed Coventry Cathedral, was highly regarded, but had never designed an airport before. He and Peter Ferguson, his partner and the architect responsible for ensuring the airport was built to Spence’s design, made a tour of four European airports. They looked at how these airports worked and how things like luggage conveyor belts and check-in desks might fit into their overall design. Spence’s original design for the terminal was to have thick, glass-plate zigzag walls on all four sides: it was decided, however, that this would be too expensive.
“I wanted a design which helped the traveller to feel the adventure of flying from this particular airport”
- Sir Basil Spence
Plans to build Glasgow Airport were controversial, as the government had already committed millions to the nearby Prestwick Airport. Debates in Parliament and in the press in the early 1960s affected the architects, as they were unsure as to whether the project would ever be built.
Although the building has since been redeveloped, it is still possible to see the “great umbrella of concrete vaults” which make up the roof, a feature which Spence hoped would give the appearance of “a gateway to travel.”