Images: Lucas Blair Simpson © SOM
Kansas City International Airport in Missouri will open its 1,100,000ft2 (102,200m2) terminal tomorrow (February 28), which will increase annual capacity from 3.8 million passenger to more than 16 million – and features an inclusive and accessible approach to air travel.
The redevelopment has replaced the existing, overcrowded terminals – originally opened in 1972 – with a single, sustainable building. The building consolidates all airline operations under one roof, with a 6,000-space parking garage just steps away, to improve the passenger experience for arrivals and departures alike. The building’s 39 gates will be used for domestic and international travel, and its layout enables the facility to expand by another 11 gates in the future.
The terminal building is laid out across two levels – the upper for departing passengers and the lower for arrivals, each with its own access road and curb. Baggage claim, customs and an outdoor public garden occupy the lower level, and check-in and security are situated just inside the entrance of the upper level. Beyond security, two parallel concourses, with retail at the center, are linked by a pedestrian passage that provides sweeping views of the airfield. All of these post-security spaces are on the same level to create an easier journey for passengers.
The development partners used a series of community meetings to engage with residents of Kansas City and its surrounding areas to determine how to create a terminal that would be comfortable, convenient and welcoming to all. The city issued a resolution calling for the terminal to be “the most accessible in the world”, a goal that became a guiding principle for the design. Every gate desk, check-in position and information desk is set to a wheelchair-accessible height. The Kansas City Air Travel Experience simulator gives passengers who are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with air travel the chance to test run the space in the days before a trip, and a quiet room offers a refuge for all travelers in need of a calming space. With gender-neutral restrooms, a sensory room for children, and more, the new terminal will make the travel experience welcome to all segments of the public.
The entrance was designed to be a welcoming and light-filled space, sheltered by a generous overhang, with a glass façade and Y-columns. Warm materials clad the interiors, from the hemlock ceiling to the marble terrazzo floors. A series of locally designed mosaics, cut and preserved from the site’s previous terminal, have been placed throughout the floors of the new concourses, maintaining the memory of the original building.
Inside the check-in hall, a 732ft (223m) Missouri limestone wall serves as a backdrop to ‘The Air Up There’ – a kinetic sculpture designed by Missouri-born artist Nick Cave that is made of colorful wind spinners. The sculpture is the first of 27 works of art spread throughout the terminal, and part of a program that designated 1% of the entire project budget to artwork. Soo Sunny Park, Leo Villareal, Willie Cole and a host of other artists worked to embody the look and feel of the city in a variety of ways – from honoring Kansas City’s moniker as the City of Fountains to evoking its contribution to the history of jazz.
The LEED v4 Gold BD+C: NC terminal/concourse project has goals in place to run on renewable energy in the future. It currently runs entirely on electricity, and in the coming years a solar farm will be built to convert all airport operations to green energy. Many of the building materials used were sourced locally, and its wood finishes are FSC-certified. The masterplan also includes a comprehensive conservation strategy that maintains native trees and grasses from KCI’s original construction.
The terminal was developed by the architecture and structural engineering firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), Kansas City aviation department, the City of Kansas City, developer Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate and design-builder joint venture Clark | Weitz | Clarkson (CWC). According to Kansas City Airport, the terminal build was the largest single infrastructure project in the history of Kansas City.
Pat Klein, director of aviation for Kansas City, said, “The new terminal is a testament to the strength of the Kansas City region’s demand for travel. SOM has designed KCI to be one of the most striking civic destinations in our city, and one of the most inclusive terminals in the world.”
Colin Koop, design partner at SOM, commented, “One of our main goals was to make circulation throughout the terminal an effortless experience. We designed an intuitive layout for the building – one that will make the terminal easy to navigate and walk through, while retaining the flexibility to adapt as air travel changes over time.”
Laura Ettelman, managing partner at SOM, said, “From the earliest stages of our design process, we worked with the city to figure out different ways to make the terminal more inclusive and accessible, and to open the possibility of travel to people who may not have had that opportunity. That was a powerful idea that came directly from the residents of Kansas City.”
Peter Lefkovits, design principal at SOM, added, “All the ideas we put forward in the design – the emphasis on inclusion, accessibility and sustainability, mixed with preservation, art and natural materials – come together to express the civic purpose of this terminal. It’s a striking new gateway that prepares Kansas City for the long run.”
For more key accessibility updates from the passenger terminal industry, click here.