Seattle-Tacoma opens aerial walkway

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Seattle-Tacoma Airport (SEA) in Washington has opened its 780ft aerial walkway that passes over an active taxi lane, enabling passengers to watch planes pass underneath.

Arriving international passengers are presented with the landscape of the Pacific Northwest as they cross the aerial walkway with 360° views of Mount Rainier and the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges.

The walkway connects to the airport’s International Arrivals Facility (IAF) and its Grand Hall, and its interior design references elements of the Pacific Northwest – its plant life, terrain and topography. A new secure international corridor along the face of the existing A Concourse provides eight international wide-body aircraft gates direct access to the IAF, with dual use for domestic flights, bolstering the building’s future flexibility. SEA also rolled out ‘Bags First,’ a streamlined customs and border protection entrance process.

The airport’s new International Arrivals Facility (IAF) was designed to expand its capacity and speed up its processing times. Construction engineering company Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) led the design team, replacing a 50-year-old arrivals facility with a 450,000ft2  structure to improve the passenger experience.

The Grand Hall uses floor-to-ceiling windows to create a light-filled space and an arcing roofline to reflect motion of a landing airplane. Site-specific artworks include ‘Magnetic Anomaly’, a set of three kinetic artworks created by Ned Kahn, suspended overhead and a colorful five-piece sculpture by Marela Zacarías, ‘Chalchiutlicue’, that floats above baggage claim carousels. The hall also features a terrazzo floor with local stones and entry portals lined with Douglas fir. Passengers depart the passport control area, alongside a small forest of evergreen trees, which culminates at ground level in a landscaped creek with native ferns and plantings nestled between granite slabs.

Lance Lyttle, managing director of SEA Airport, said, “This is an all-new welcome to our region and airport for an international traveler, and it’s a dramatic improvement. Everything from the views out the windows, the iconic walkway and the intuitiveness of the facility make this an exceptional customer experience.”

Michael Duncan, design partner at SOM, said, “An airport creates your first impression of a new place and the Puget Sound region offers an incredible palette to draw from. The design significantly improves efficiency and elevates the passenger experience. Most importantly, it creates an uplifting, light-filled experience – with its dramatic roof and bridge and is a welcoming sequence of spaces.”

“It is magnificent from an architectural perspective,” said Jay Inslee, the Governor of Washington, at the project reveal. “That walkway is a working piece of art.”

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