The Terminal East Infill Project, an addition to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA) completed in late 2015, has brought a sense of openness to the security area. Page, the architect of ABIA, was tapped by the City of Austin’s Aviation Department to design the expansion to the Barbara Jordan Terminal, including a new security checkpoint, customs area, and related infrastructural improvements to address the exponential increase in air travel.
The 1999 terminal was designed by Page with the expectation of growth from multiple points. “The client was extremely happy with the original design, yet didn’t want more of the same with this expansion,” says Page senior principal Larry Speck, FAIA. “They wanted a design that was distinct, yet compatible, and took a new direction.” Within the tight site, a former loading dock and parking lot, the design team set out to create vertical, expansive spaces with ample natural light. Page took liberties with the spatial geometries and integrated color within the existing material palette.
The expansion’s two primary programs are stacked within a curvilinear volume, carefully shaped in response to the sun’s path. The facade is composed of thin steel verticals with glazing to bring in an abundance of natural light and provide views of the sky in all directions. The glazing opacity varies to deter heat gain and block views to and from the customs area. Adjacent to ticketing, the upper level is the new home of Security Checkpoint #1, accommodating up to 10 security lines, and funneling passengers eastward to the original Gate 6, a potential terminal expansion point. On the ground level, a new customs area welcomes international passengers, as they move west from their arriving gate through to ground transportation. In efforts to make the typical customs and border protection process more efficient and reduce the square footage required, Page reordered the sequence: Some passengers wait for luggage while others proceed into the passport control line, lessening the typical bottleneck that occurs when all passengers move into the line simultaneously.
Architectural Engineers Collaborative designed the steel structure that makes these open spaces possible. Forty-four feet high at the center, spanning 200-ft, the exposed ceiling structure with its tapering beams is the most striking feature of the expansion. A series of light poles provide the required lumens with integrated security cameras, fire strobes, and speakers, leaving the ceiling free of infrastructural clutter. A raised aluminum floor allows for easy reconfiguration of utilities and lighting for adjustments and updates in technology. Steel fins run continuously from the ground to support the overhead structure, providing interior flexibility and ease of movement for passengers within the column-free space. A color spectrum is integrated into the steel structure on the upper level — a reference to the sun — at the connection point between the vertical fins to the ceiling.
With its recently released 2040 Master Plan, ABIA continues to look to a future of growth. Serving over 16 million passengers in 2018, the continued emphasis on passenger experience, evident in this expansion, is a positive predictor of what is to come.
Sarah Gamble, AIA, is the architect of the Texas Main Street Program, a community revitalization effort within the Texas Historical Commission.