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Las Vegas Airport Terminal

Las Vegas Airport Terminal Wins Nevada AIA Design Award

The $1.4B, 2M sf McCarran International Airport Terminal 3 building has earned a 2013 AIA Nevada Merit Award for Architecture. The 3-level, half mile long terminal was designed by PGAL's Aviation Design Studio which design major airport projects nationally. With the country's most-advanced airport operations and passenger/baggage systems, Terminal 3 houses 14 new aircraft gates and terminal facilities for 30 adjacent gates.

Design Approach

The concept was inspired by Nevada's vast desert region and mountainous terrain. The Terminal's abstract shape is derived from natural, unique geometric rock formations and enclosures–hollow voids and spaces shaped by rock erosion that carve openings into which light and exposure penetrate. Similarly, penetrations created in the skin of Terminal 3 seem carved from its monolithic structure.

The Terminal 3 program consists of two primary operations, landside and airside. The Landside serves as the connection and access to the ground, while the airside serves as the connection and access to the air. Each element is represented by a clearly defined rectilinear form linked together by a low intermediate core. The formal and rigid landside mass rests parallel to the ground, while the airside is rotated, appearing uplifted and separated from the ground.

The Terminal's interior environment creates a perception of being protected by a thermal mass. Calm created by the weight of this mass is accentuated by the contextual neutral palette and the dichotomy of indigenous stones and honed finish materials with modern materials like glass and stainless steel. Entry points into the building are celebrated as grand gestures, opening the building to light, views, and movement. The simplicity of form provides a backdrop to the existing Terminal D and easily converges into the northern perimeter of the site.

Project Description

The half-mile long, three-level Terminal 3, has the country's most-advanced airport operations technologies and passenger/baggage processing systems, supported by a highly-flexible, sophisticated infrastructure geared to keep Terminal 3 at the cutting edge of aviation design well into the future. It houses 14 new aircraft gates (including seven international gates) and also provides terminal facilities for 30 gates at the adjacent Concourse D.

Site and program criteria dictated a linear terminal configuration and strong landside/airside frontal presence. Landside elevation faces north, providing direct connection to ticketing lobby at departures level and to domestic baggage claim and international arrivals at arrivals level. Airside elevation has southern exposure and contains holdrooms with direct visual connection to airfield and Concourse D. Landside elevation exhibits a strong civic presence to serve as the new gateway to Las Vegas.

T3's close proximity to Concourse D required that its design incorporate Concourse D's modern architectural design/materials. T3's overall “Canyons” scheme responds to the long/narrow site context and the linear nature of the building's functional layout. The frontal landside mass, clad in manufactured stone panels, is formal and eroded with “fissures” at the roof plane and north facade to introduce natural light and to signal the terminal's “entry portals”. Glazed articulated penetrations of volume include entry vestibules to ticketing lobby from curbside and over-roadway pedestrian bridges linking the parallelogram-shaped terminal and parking garage. All frontal piece walls have significant depth, allowing south clerestory lighting to filter daylight into ticketing lobby.

T3's “service bar” center portion is a simple, functional form housing most building/passenger services. Exterior cladding is zinc corrugated panels with poured-in-place rusticated concrete base to elevate panels above grade and “ground” the form.

Airside mass is rotated to reduce interior space volume along southern holdrooms and as a scaler gesture to Concourse D. Predominant exterior material, zinc, strengthens the form's material relationship with Concourse D. Airside mass is grounded at north wall but '”floats” above the airfield along south face. Airside sectional form is continuous from west/east until reaching T3's center core where the form reverses itself for five column bays to acknowledge the center core vertical circulation to the Level-0 ATS Station. Airside building exterior skin is clad in zinc panels on the roof that return down the face of wall planes, maintaining simplicity of form. Exterior wall thickness provides passive solar control on south face; north clerestory “openings” bring natural light into the public concourse. Recycled materials and high-efficiency systems produce strong sustainability while seven major public art installations underscore T3's smart, signature look.

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