Creating humanistic spaces is also a sustainable measure, and sustainable features are increasingly important in airport design—in part because of social demand and its marketing potential. For the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Fentress Architects added clerestories and broad windows into stainless-steel roof forms that stretch over column-free structures. The design bathes the space in sunlight and its wave-like ceiling forms reduce solar glare and heat.
“Whether it’s making spaces brighter through natural light or designing areas for bins that separate recyclables from trash, people notice and appreciate these things, but they also have a cost benefit,” Fentress asserts. “If you can shave $100,000 off annual energy operations, that matters. If you can shave off $1 million per year with better insulation, high-performing heat glass and water-saving fixtures in restrooms, that’s a major impact.”
Greater durability and flexibility also come into play. For example, at the Raleigh- Durham International Airport, Fentress Architects designed a lenticular wood truss roof comprised of 1 million square feet of glue-laminated timbers and custom-fabricated steel supports for durability. At DEN, the terminal’s Great Hall is enclosed by a double-layer fiberglass fabric roof, which allowed for greater spans than traditional roofing systems to increase space flexibility.
“One of the best things you can do is design airport spaces to be as flexible as possible for future changes in infrastructure and the way people travel,” Fentress says. He points to the fact that people take far fewer items on trips nowadays and that carry-on luggage did not have wheels until 1987, so the curbs and steps in older facilities impede passenger movement.
Tying It Together
When new facilities are added to existing terminals, Fentress says they strive to create a cohesive design. “If there is a master plan, we build upon it or we unify the airport with forms reminiscent of the surrounding landscape or existing architecture.” At LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal, for example, the steel roof structures draw their shape from Pacific Ocean waves and pay homage to LAX’s 1969 Theme Building’s parabolic arches.
If funds don’t allow for architectural gestures, Fentress Architects ties together new and existing spaces with similar interior elements, like carpeting, terrazzo, furniture, retail storefronts, and airport signage for visual continuity.
To encourage the next generation of airport designers, each year the firm issues the Fentress Global Challenge. The international design competition geared to young and student architects offers a $10,000 cash award (as well as airfare, lodging and the entrance fee to an event where the award will be presented—not to exceed $5,000) to the first-place winner. This year the theme is The Terminal Building in the Year 2075. “Airports are building types rarely discussed in architecture schools,” Fentress notes. “We created the challenge because I want students to know that transportation facilities and airports can be an important part of their career.”
Enter the Fentress Global Challenge
The annual competition was created to engage students worldwide in the exploration of future design possibilities in public architecture. This year’s challenge asks entrants to re-envision airport mobility in the year 2075. The first-place winner receives a $10,000 cash award (as well as airfare, lodging and the entrance fee to an event where the award will be presented— not to exceed $5,000). Deadline is May 31. Visit online to learn more and enter.