It’s just our skyline; pardon our dust.

Indianapolis International Airport (IND), the top-ranked airport in the nation for service quality six years in a row, offers an appealingly simple navigation and aesthetic experience that no doubt helps it maintain its high ranking. Navigation-wise, it should be easy: it is neither a large nor particularly busy airport (though big and busy enough to rate among the upper tier of major North American airports). As for its appearance, it has aged well and shows little signs of wear after celebrating its ten-year anniversary, though this is likely explainable for the same reason that its ranks well for its maneuverability.

I’ve blogged in the past about some of my concerns with management decisions at the airport in the past, from its difficulties in devising good uses for the current plethora of gates, to the tendency to eliminate space originally dedicated to local artists, only to get replaced with revenue-generating advertising. In each case, though, I’ve recognized the necessity of these decisions: they were not so much unwise as they were unfortunate that they were needed to generate revenue at a time when the airline industry reacted to both challenging new security regulations and an increasingly finicky consumer culture.

This latest trip to IND, however, yielded a find that I can neither justify nor fully explain: an archetypal photo of the Indianapolis skyline with an unusual feature.IMG_0004It’s a sight most people familiar with the city will recognize, looking eastward along the Central Canal toward the skyline, flanked by Military Park and the Indiana State Museum. Even those only marginally familiar with the city may still be able to identify the spot, since it has proven a popular location for photographing the city ever since the completion of White River State Park some fifteen to twenty years ago. Regardless of how acquainted a person is, it probably takes a person who cares about minor details to notice a glaring oversight. Take a look at the lower right corner.Indy skyline with constructionClearly the photography team had floodlight ambience in mind, but they forgot—or simply didn’t care—that some of that lighting was there to aid a construction team, resurfacing the decorative brickwork on the right side of the canal. It’s as big of a goof as the barely visible boom mic at the top of a poorly framed cut from a movie or TV show. Why couldn’t they wait until the resurfacing was complete? Surely it wouldn’t take more than a couple weeks. The promotional skyline pic is not a subtle location either; this photo is at the end of Concourse A, right before entering the Civic Plaza.IMG_0003And it’s particularly odd, considering that a bustling daytime photo is just a few feet further down the path, on the other side of the corridor.IMG_0006Sure, it has those weird panels. But otherwise the arrangement is perfect. Just like something out of a rendering.

This would be carping on my part, if I were faulting someone for this, but I have no idea where along the chain they might have made such a decision. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter, unless you have an eye for details. But considering that IND consistently gets enough details right to yield an overwhelmingly favorable customer experience—favorable enough to rate at the top time and time again—it’s safe to say that an equally important characteristic is an eye for the right details. Discernment. Separating the wheat from the chaff—or, in this case, the scaffolding.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on email

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on email

30 thoughts on “It’s just our skyline; pardon our dust.

  1. AvatarChris B

    Indeed, one wonders how many times this “signature scene” has been reproduced without noticing what you noticed.

    It would have been easy enough to (1) set the shot up a few steps to the right, or (2) crop out the construction site.

    Reply
  2. AvatarChris B

    PS. Good eye. I walked past that picture recently and didn’t notice it. That scene is so common as to approach “wallaper” status.

    Reply
    1. AmericanDirtAmericanDirt

      Yep. That’s about all it is. Now I’m impelled to look for any night skyline pics and see if they included a resurfacing team. Or a boom mic at the top.

      Reply
    1. AmericanDirtAmericanDirt

      Yeah, it’s almost like the photographer was some kind of beetle, unthinkingly attracted to the bright lights.

      Reply
    2. AvatarAstara

      I see the attraction. I’m blaming the person who approved the photo’s use in such a public area and on such a large scale without editing.

      Reply
  3. AvatarAngela E.

    Those of us that frequently work in or through IND might argue the phrase of little wear or tear in spite if its age.

    The art installation in the parking garage has worked only intermittently since day one and was already completely reinstalled once. The cover in the parking garage completely collapsed damaging the structure and cars. I’ve had to walk through construction to get to work from the employee lot for more than 5 years straight.

    Inside something is always broken. Elevators, moving sidewalks, etc. Some days more moving sidewalks are stationary than moving. Screens go out. One morning the clocks were wrong. Just completely the wrong time. Like an hour and twenty minutes ahead so I had a panic attack that I was REALLY LATE and in major trouble.

    It’s clean though. I’ll give them that. And while things are still airport prices, they aren’t as insanely inflated as other airports.

    Reply
    1. AmericanDirtAmericanDirt

      thanks for those details. You definitely have a more day-to-day awareness of the imperfections. I wonder how many we might see at other airports where conditions are worse? I feel like I’ve actually noticed those flaws at other airports I use a lot (DCA, ATL, IAD) so I’d guess the problems are compounded. Then again, those places get a whole lot more use each day.

      It doesn’t surprise me about the art installation, which resembles Swarm Street, the installation on Virginia Avenue that has tons of problems. http://www.urbanindy.com/2018/02/11/washington-dc-begins-to-swarm-its-darkest-streets-with-civic-art-sound-familiar/?fbclid=IwAR2-QOwm8jVD8RPGSxVJlTSBf5XPDo0qQFW2PrjrYMIlPKC1GC3R66VMNck

      Reply
    2. AvatarAngela E.

      https://youtu.be/4FUyipjdRCs

      collapsed in 2011 and 2014.

      I’m sure it also further damaged the art installation under it… But that installation only worked for a short period anyway. And it seemed as if at least one section was always not working every when it was “working.”

      Reply
      1. AvatarAngela E.

        Indy is always blasting the “best airport” title on social media. For the next few days one of my friends and I will take photos and send them back and forth of all the out of order signs and broken things.

        That being said it is relatively easy to navigate.

        Security isn’t terrible; though they will close down one side or only have precheck on one side quite frequently.

        Food and shopping is not abundant and closes early but prices while high are still reasonable.

        It’s not a bad airport. But it is plagued with “this want done right to start with” constant repairs. A lot of corners were cut and quality was lost on many things.

        Reply
        1. AvatarAngela E.

          When they moved employee parking from the garage to the lot it’s in now we were told we’d get a covered walkway. Then they put in a single with walkway and lined the sides with gravel. So two people with rolling suitcases couldn’t pass and when employees would pass in the gravel so those with suitcases could stay on the sidewalk they would kick up gravel… Which more than once caught in my suitcase wheels causing damage.

          The next summer they tore out that sidewalk and put in a wider one lined with landscaping lights “but still not covered.”. Rumor has it that that might all get tornn out in favor on building a hotel on the property (in which case they’ll probably send us out to the remote lot where we once again are completely reliant on the shuttle service as you can’t walk.

          Reply
          1. AmericanDirtAmericanDirt

            I definitely get your point. Bear in mind it is almost definite that other airports do experience similar failings, and we’ve all encountered them from time to time. Several in the Midwest have misjudged the changes in the airline industry so badly that they’ve been forced to close off entire terminals. If you’re hellbent on finding faults with something, you will never come up short.

            Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m almost positive: the interesting distinction between IND and a lot of other downtown Indy stuff (also done on the cheap) is that IND was a federal project, initiated by the GSA because the FAA determined that the previous airport terminal was outdated beyond redemption (even though it’s last upgrade wasn’t so far back, in 1987). Also, I’m pretty certain that the planning for the new terminal took place at a point when ATA was still a key player, so the fact that it went belly up in 2006 might have thrown a wrench in things, making the terminal under construction already over-designed. As I said to someone else, it may simply be that IND is the least-awful major airport and thus still comes out on top. Those rating companies certainly have just as easy access to reports of structural/operational failings as the rest of us do, so unless there’s corruption in the nominating process (and there very well might be) it’s still likely to be a significantly above average airport by most metrics.

            Reply
          2. AvatarAngela E.

            they should have known better than to plan around ATA which had been struggling before 9/11. There were actually several in my class in Aug 2001 that were jumping ship. Plus airlines like Delta have a larger presence than they used to have… I have been based in other small airports such as RIC and NEVER noticed it plagued with the sort of major recurring maintenance as this IND has.

            I really feel like IND is the airport version of the cookie cutter houses. They look nicer than the actual quality of construction. They’re fine, and they look nice when they’re new, but you live in them long enough and you find the upkeep of the shoddy construction is more than doing it right the first time. Mold behind the microwave that wasn’t vented properly…

            They’ve replaced the sidewalk twice in two years and before the second year is up they’re already talking of treating it all out again… It’s poor foresight. They didn’t even put in the IND letters on the hill as you approach the airport as planned… Because $$$.

            I guess it depends on who is actually behind the awarding of the title. Do they care about that sort of thing? Is the title really all that legit? Or is it more of a “who’s our biggest donor” sort of situation.

            Reply
            1. AmericanDirtAmericanDirt

              You’re obviously extremely cynical about the place. Sorry about that. I tend to find the situations that seem bad in an isolated location have the same defects elsewhere, if you look hard enough. The Civic Plaza at IND still looks terrific, even though I suspect some of that is due to how little use it gets. And much of the rest of the high rating is built on customer impressions, which may be more prone to overlook those flaws you mentioned, since we see that sort of thing at just about every airport. Am I at least write that IND was almost completely federally funded? If so, then for once we can’t blame the cheapskates in Indiana government, which is a very very common scapegoat I’m on most urban minded blogs.

              Reply
  4. AvatarGreg Brown

    I always laughed at that. The Indy airport is one of the most mismanaged organizations I have seen and can give tons of examples!

    Reply
    1. AmericanDirtAmericanDirt

      Possibly, but I still suspect it’s better run than most other airports. Intermittently functional infrastructure, poorly maintained restrooms, bad signage…. There’s a reason IND still gets ranked so well–it’s the most not-awful. That said, they’ve made some poor decisions regarding use of their space, in my opinion, and it has potentially hurt their ability to attract as many of the interesting, local restaurants and retailers that they used to have.

      Reply
      1. AvatarGreg Brown

        It’s all a sham, always someone you can pay to give you an award. Think the Chevy commercials. “Best initial value sedan” …so what, after a 5 mi drive is sucks? Or best initial quality..I am in 2 to 4 airports a week and Indy only has newer, too bad it’s more ran down and empty of vendors. Thinking more, greed was their problem. I remember when there were mobile kiosks everywhere and they are gone, as well as some stores. Plus they are slowly replaing the garage for valet only. So is it an airport for the people, or those with more cash?

        Reply
        1. AmericanDirtAmericanDirt

          There’s a top 20 ranking, and an obvious first place finisher, for just about everything under the sun these days. You should check back on the comments on the original post, and you’ll see other people who share your cynicism… including another name you just might recognize.

          Reply
        2. AvatarGreg Brown

          I might have to check that out! I just am embarrassed every time I am in that airport (2 to 4 times a week) with how little it really serves Indy and represents is. Hey, could we sell another large wall add there?

          Reply
          1. AmericanDirtAmericanDirt

            that irritates me more than unmaintained stuff, which hasn’t seemed any better or worse than other airports I frequent. But the way the airport has compromised on public art—replaced with relentless advertising—seems pretty extreme. Obviously they expected more foot traffic than they ended up receiving, which also probably explains all the turnaround on vendors.

            Reply
  5. AvatarAngela E.

    Honestly, right now I can’t tell you who funded it. I can’t tell you what I ate for breakfast. I’m dealing with too much personally.

    I’m honestly not that cynical. It’s just every other week there’s an article about this airport like it’s some marvel.

    I said it has its plusses. It’s easy to navigate, parking costs aren’t outrageous (comparatively), shops are not insanely marked up, multiple airlines with competitive destinations.

    It’s just there’s a whole lot of fresh paint covering up a lot of construction shortcomings. Leaking ceilings, collapsing garage covering, expensive art installations that don’t work, etc.

    I have a friend who’s sister decorates places like this. They’re currently replacing the carpets. Not only is the stuff going in hideous she said she’s surprised the old stuff is already being replaced. Good commercial stuff, with regular cleaning should have held up longer.

    Reply
    1. AmericanDirtAmericanDirt

      If it’s any consolation, even big-budget places like Washington DC have similar, serious construction oversights on new, presumably “deluxe” developments. Case in point: an apartment complex around me is only 2 years old, already has visible cracks in the drywall from settling (wide enough cracks that you could stick a sheet of paper in them), laminate on the stairs is cracking off, floor tiles are loosening, sulphur smells when someone runs the bathroom sink faucet. If this were a mid-range complex, it would be acceptable. But it’s marketed as high-end even by DC standards (ALL new apartments are branded “high end” these days), and luxury in DC costs 50-100% more than the equivalent in Indy. (E.g., $2200/mo for a 1bd, 650 s.f. unit) All too typical!

      I wonder if the “cheap first” approach is based on market uncertainty. Building things to last would normally seem like a good idea, but if fluctuations in land values leave investors apprehensive, they may be more prone to support quick, cheap fixes. After all, if the economy sours, it’s not as likely that a good, thoughtful, high-quality investment will pay for itself in enough time.

      Reply
      1. AvatarBrian M

        LOL. You guys ain’t got PROBLEMS.

        https://www.google.com/search?source=hp&ei=K1EuXIeILY-u0PEPlp662A4&q=salesforce+transit+center+cracked+beam&oq=Salesforce+Transit+center&gs_l=psy-ab.1.1.0l10.3596.9045..10584…1.0..0.96.1630.26……0….1..gws-wiz…..0..0i131j0i22i10i30.u578Q0nx-kw

        Cynics wonder if “we just can’t get things done”. But then, one looks at the people who died building the Golden Gate Bridge, or the shortcuts taken on various Chinese Infrastructure Miracle projects, or the corruption behind the building of Philadelphia City Hall. Same as it ever was! 🙂

        Reply
        1. AmericanDirtAmericanDirt

          Yowza. Pretty bad for a city with such seismic considerations. Is it SF City or Oakland or San Jose that has the sinking apartment tower? Or am I completely getting it confused?

          Hopefully some of the other cynics on this thread will read this. There’s a serious grass-is-greener mentality in Indy that I routinely try to dispel. Hearing about these issues in the American city with the single highest land values (and one of the highest concentrations of billionaires) should at least make people consider that sloppy construction decisions can take place anywhere.

          Maybe Salesforce can relocate their refugees from this troubled edifice over to Indianapolis, home of one of their largest ancillary offices? Indy’s tallest skyscraper got renamed from Chase Tower to Salesforce after Mr. Benioff bought out Indy’s ExactTarget a few years ago. I’m sure all those San Franciscans would adapt wonderfully to the Midwest winters, the easygoing pace, the cheap housing, and the slightly subpar avocados.

          Reply
  6. AvatarAngela E.

    I guess that’s my thought process. IND is more of the same BS. It’s not as crazy special as the local newspapers would use that title to represent. And I’ve been to a LOT of regional airport. A lot. Paying for more than you actually get in quality. Even if it was federally funded… Those are our tax dollars.

    I was thinking they marketed it as privately funded but I honestly can’t recall right now. But I would have serious doubts that the continuing upkeep is…

    It’s kind of like pets as gifts… It’s “easy” to get a pet but you have to consider the energy, time, and financial cost of having a pet.

    I’m probably cynical about shoddy construction masquerading as luxury.

    Reply
    1. AmericanDirtAmericanDirt

      it wouldn’t even have required an advanced Adobe user! Maybe they liked the glow of those construction lights.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. You are not required to sign in. Anonymous posting is just fine.