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Airport World turns the spotlight on a handful of the US’s leading airport architectural firms and some of the pioneering projects they are working on or have recently completed.

Architect: Fentress Architects

Project: Solving the capacity capacity crunch in Nashville 

In 2018, Nashville International Airport (BNA) welcomed a record 14.9 million passengers, setting an all-time passenger record for the fifth consecutive year. This increased passenger volume – both domestic and international – is what prompted the creation of BNA Vision, a comprehensive plan that comprises seven major building projects, which together will enable the airport to accommodate 17 million annual passengers by 2023, and up to 23 million by 2032.

The design build team of Fentress Architects and Hensel Phelps are leading the creation of BNA Vision’s two largest projects: the $292 million, 462,000-square-foot Concourse D and Terminal Wings Expansion, as well as the 440,000-square-foot Terminal Lobby and International Arrivals Facility.

Expansion to Concourse D and the terminal is being driven by the desire to maintain Nashville International Airport as a world-class facility for the record-breaking passenger volumes it currently serves and the sustained and projected growth anticipated.

Upon completion next summer, the 115,000-square-foot expansion to Concourse D will yield six new departures gates along with associated ramp amenities and function space. A significant portion of Concourse C will also be renovated to allow for relocation of airport operations during construction of other BNA Vision projects.

Expansion of the terminal to the north and south will provide for interim TSA checkpoints and future permanent ticketing check-in counters. Each expanded wing will include concessions, support offices, and bag claim devices.

Additionally, an entirely new 11,000-square-foot Central Utility Plant will be completed and brought online to support the BNA Vision.

The Terminal Lobby and International Arrivals Facility (IAF), which is currently in design and scheduled to open in the fall of 2023, is needed to ensure that BNA is equipped to meet current and projected demand for passengers and baggage and better streamline both the arrivals and departures sequence.

Achievement of these goals will help the airport and its airline partners maintain current and attract new international routes.

As its largest single component, the creation of a state-of-the-art Terminal Lobby and IAF is central to the BNA Vision. Design features of this project include:

• New arrival canopies, pedestrian bridge, and central core addition;
• A new and open centralised Marketplace within the terminal; and
• A new pedestrian connection from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) screening to ground transportation to enhance passenger flows.

Additional features include expanded space for airline clubs and six international gates to meet the rising demand from Europe, Asia and Latin America. Also included will be an expanded, consolidated security screening checkpoint, which will have additional lanes to minimise wait times and expedite the screening process. Finally, a bags-first approach and Automated Passport Controls will further expedite throughput.

The terminal lobby will feature an airwave roof canopy that extends from the terminal garage to the IAF, and ultimately provide coverage for roadway and kerbside access from the terminal and new pedestrian walkway bridge.

The pedestrian bridge will connect the central core with a garage plaza, administration building and future hotel, thereby promoting efficient passenger traffic flow. The central core, a defining feature of the strategic design, will vertically connect all four levels from the Transportation Center to the new pedestrian bridge, which will improve circulation as it streamlines and facilitates passenger flow.

The Marketplace will be located between the lobby’s new security screening checkpoint and the international gates in order to optimise services and amenities available to both international and domestic passengers.

The new IAF will include a CBP area with primary and secondary processing areas, and a pedestrian tunnel that will aid the flow of passengers from the CBP to the terminal and ground transportation areas.


Architect: Corgan

Project: LAX’s Midfield Satellite Concourse 

Corgan is the lead design firm on the design/build project to create a new remote satellite concourse for the international terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).  The $1.4 billion satellite concourse will be a remote facility, initially served by an airport bussing operation and a passenger access tunnel connection to the Bradley West Terminal, but eventually connected by an automated people mover system (APM).

The concourse will be designed to accommodate 22 wide-body (code E aircraft) swing gates serving domestic and international flights.

The first phase of the concourse encloses approximately 750,000 square feet of passenger and operational space with 11 to 13 wide-body gates; 50,000 square feet of passenger tunnel access; 80,000 square feet of utility tunnels; and a ramp level bus station for transfers to other domestic terminals.

Phase 2, when constructed, will complete the satellite concourse and include the remaining holdroom and gates, an automated people mover system and maintenance facility.

Increasing flexibility for terminal operations and maintenance, LAX’s Midfield Satellite Concourse will offer passengers more efficient navigation and circulation, streamline throughput and traffic, and provide higher levels of service.

A series of ‘neighbourhoods’ comprised of gates, core amenities, and concessions punctuate the concourse with a variety of seating options and enhanced accessibility to accommodate passenger loads.

The improvements and expansion at the second busiest airport in the US will add the necessary facilities and gate space needed for airlines to grow service at the international hub and meet demand for the future air travel.


Architect: Gensler

Project: Designing for future growth at Pittsburgh 

Opened 27 years ago as a mega-hub terminal facility for US Airways, markets have since shifted, providing an opportunity to reshape the future of Pittsburgh International Airport and create a connected, adaptable facility that commits to meeting today’s aviation challenges 

as well as tomorrow’s technological advances to meet anticipated traffic of 12 million passengers by 2033, write Gensler’s Tim Hudson and Ty Osbaugh.

December 2018 marked the 32nd consecutive month of passenger growth, with nearly 9.7 million people travelling through the airport – nearly 8% more than 2017 (primarily in origin-and-destination traffic.)

The team led by Gensler + HDR in association with luis vidal + architects is working to create the vision for delivering this new gateway for the region.

The project’s design philosophy embraces nature, technology, and community in a nod to Pittsburgh’s location, its local residents, and a commitment to innovation. The former midfield terminal will be transformed to better serve its now primary O&D passengers, providing a more efficient journey and a more enjoyable experience for passengers.

The project will also consolidate airline and airport operations alongside public spaces, including ticketing, baggage claim, meet-and-greet area, security checkpoint, as well as retail and concession options.

It all adds up to a terminal that will reshape the future of Pittsburgh International Airport, helping to reduce long-term costs and provide greater benefit to its local community and the travelling public.

And in a wider sense, it means a better-equipped Pittsburgh and a more connected region poised to continue its technological and cultural ascent.


Architect: LEO A DALY

Project: Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport’s new $1 billion terminal 

Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) is celebrating the official opening of its eagerly awaited new $1 billion North Terminal.

The gateway’s new 35-gate terminal, which was seven years in the making in terms of the design and planning work by global architecture firms LEO A DALY and Atkins, will ensure that the US’s fifth fastest growing airport has the capacity to meet rising demand.

According to the design team, the terminal immerses MSY visitors in the culture, geography, and history of the Big Easy. Its architectural form is said to evoke the soft curves of the Mississippi River while dappled natural light streams into the terminal via skylights is meant to evoke the city’s tree-shaded urban markets.

A jazz garden at the terminal’s three-story central atrium will feature live jazz music, while a massive glass-sealed image taken by a local photographer of live oak trees in morning fog graces the terminal’s main elevator.

Design for the terminal was developed and completed by the Crescent City Aviation Team (CCAT), a joint venture of Atkins and LEO A DALY, who reveal that they worked to maximise convenience for passengers in the terminal.

As a result, a single security checkpoint serves both international and domestic flights and adapts to accommodate large tourist crowds during special events such as Jazz Fest and Mardi Gras. The terminal’s layered, open feeling, with prominent views of the airfield, makes the airport easy for travellers to navigate. 

The facility is also said to offer a unique concessions programme that celebrates the city’s rich culinary, music, and arts heritage.

The need for storm resistance allegedly drove the innovative design. A spherical roof shape allows long spans while accommodating heavy rainfall. Extensive wind-tunnel modelling and on-site testing resulted in a glass curtain wall able to withstand hurricane-force winds.

The 35-gate terminal includes the six-gate Concourse A, which was added nine months into construction to accommodate increasing demand for domestic and international travel to the city.

CCAT led the design of the airport terminal, its three concourses, concession programme, two parking garages, aviation radar and electrical facilities, pump station, airside aprons and landside roadway systems. The terminal design was based on an initial concept by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects.

“We are extremely proud to have supported the City of New Orleans in bringing the new North Terminal to reality,” said Justin Jones, intermodal business unit director for Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group.

“This beautiful, state-of-the-art facility will not only provide a modern, spacious place to arrive and depart but also bring a taste of what makes New Orleans unique, including its music, food, and culture.”

Steven Lichtenberger, AIA, president of LEO A DALY, noted: “The new MSY establishes an iconic new gateway to the city of New Orleans and a passenger experience unlike anything else in the world. We’re truly thrilled to see it contribute to New Orleans’ growth as a domestic and international destination.”


Architect: Alliiance

Project: Transforming Spokane International Airport 

Spokane International Airport is the largest airport in eastern Washington State in North America’s Inland Northwest Region, writes Alliiance’s Eric Peterson.

The airport serves Washington’s second most populous city, Spokane; the Palouse on the Columbia Plateau; as well as Idaho’s renowned rest and recreation destination of Coeur d’Alene and north to Canada.

The region is known for its picturesque and varied geography, wine industry, universities, active lifestyles, and independent and pragmatic spirit.

With such noteworthy attributes, it is not surprising that Spokane is blossoming today as educated professionals relocate to a city that is eminently livable, active, and connected to the world. As in most communities, Spokane’s airport is critical to enabling and propelling the region’s vitality.

Large portions of the existing terminal and concourse facilities were built in the mid-1960s and reflect planning and design norms of that era. Aside from generally being constrained and undersized in many key functional areas, overall capacity has been severely taxed as passenger traffic has increased with two consecutive record years in 2017 and 2018 totalling nearly 23% in growth, fuelling the sustained growth of the region’s economy.

The areas that have been impacted the most are the passenger security checkpoints which were originally laid out in the pre-9/11 era. Compounding the passenger impacts of these kind of built-in pinch points is the fact that the airport functions essentially as two separate operations with two separate terminals and separate concourses with substantial distance between the primary functions.

The Master Plan envisioned a new midfield terminal in the not too distant future that would bypass the constraints of the existing facility and provide for anticipated future growth, however, the costs of that solution were prohibitive.

In 2015, a planning study named TREX (Terminal Renovation and Expansion) identified a number of incremental projects that could be implemented to address future airline and airport needs as well as correct operational deficiencies to improve the passenger experience.

Primary components of the study included consolidation and centralisation of baggage claim areas with an expansion of security checkpoints to the extent possible in their existing locations, as a means to reduce passenger inconvenience without having to proceed with the prohibitive midfield terminal option.

In 2017, Alliiance was retained to implement the TREX project. In the course of refining the TREX study findings, it was determined that expansion of checkpoints in their existing locations had inherent limitations due to existing facility layouts and infrastructure.

The team suggested that consolidation of the checkpoints, in addition to the previously identified baggage claim consolidation, could provide significant immediate and future capacity while unifying operations between the terminals and concourses.

Further study by the Alliiance team (which includes WSP, TO Engineers, local architects WAG, the Faith Group, Thornton Tomasetti, Entro, Faithful and Gould, Swanson Rink and ICF) illustrated ways in which concourses could be modernised, expanded or replaced in conjunction with consolidated checkpoints and centralised baggage claim areas to provide capacity long into the future without moving to the midfield terminal option, and at a fraction of the potential cost.

In addition to addressing these needs, the revised TREX project has the added benefits of equal access to shared amenities and concessions to all passengers from both concourses thereby improving customer experience while enhancing revenue generation opportunities and reducing operational costs.

The project also includes an initial increase of two gates and a straightforward path for future additional gates.

The design process included interactive ‘visioning’ and ‘sense of place’ workshops with airport staff, leadership, and board members to identify an appropriate level of regional expression and identify aspirational goals in customer experience.

The resulting project design embodies the transformative landscape of the region, the spirit of adventure, opportunity, and growth reflective of Spokane’s forward-looking, yet grounded community.

The current project, for which schematic design was completed in 2019, is proceeding with anticipated construction to begin in 2021.


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