Seattle airport arrivals facility connects natural artistry with flexible design

May 20, 2022

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The IAF comprises an aerial walkway—one of the longest of its kind—a Grand Hall, and a secure corridor to increase the number of international-capable gates. Photo © Dave Burk | Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)

The new, expanded International Arrivals Facility (IAF) at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) has been cleared for takeoff.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) led the design team, replacing the 50-year-old facility with a dynamic structure nearly five times bigger. The IAF comprises an aerial walkway—one of the longest of its kind—a Grand Hall, and a secure corridor to increase the number of international-capable gates.

Arriving passengers are immersed in the landscape of the Pacific Northwest as they cross the soaring aerial walkway with 360-degree views of Mount Rainier, and the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges. The walkway spans 237 m (780 ft) across an active taxi lane, allowing passengers to watch planes pass underneath.

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

The walkway connects to the Grand Hall—an expansive, light-filled space with floor-to-ceiling windows. The building’s sweeping roofline tilts and arcs, reflecting the motion of a landing plane. A set of three kinetic artworks are suspended overhead and a colorful five-piece sculpture floats above the baggage claim carousels.

The interior design references elements of the Pacific Northwest—its plant life, terrain, and topography. The Grand Hall features a terrazzo floor with local stones, and entry portals lined with Douglas firs. 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 nested between granite slabs.

A new secure, international corridor along the face of the existing A Concourse allows eight international wide-body aircraft gates direct access to the IAF, with dual use for domestic flights to bolster the building’s future flexibility.

The most complex building project in SEA’s 70-plus year history, the new facility expands capacity and speeds up the international arrivals process. Working with the Port of Seattle, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and Clark Construction Group led the design-build team for the 41,806 m2 (450,000 sf) project. The team also included the Miller Hull Partnership, EHDD (Formerly Patano Studio), KPFF Consulting Engineers, Schlaich Bergermann Partner, Integrated Design Engineers (IDE), PAE Engineering, Magnusson Klemencic Associates, Stantec, Arup, and Murase.

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

Endnotes:
  1. [Image]: https://www.constructionspecifier.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/CM_SeattleAirport.jpg

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