Architecture – SOM – Skidmore, Owings & Merrill has inaugurated the new terminal of Kansas City International Airport (KCI), a sustainable building increasing passenger capacity. “One of our main goals was to make circulation throughout the terminal an effortless experience,” said SOM Design Partner Colin Koop. “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,” added SOM Managing Partner Laura Ettelman.
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The I-shaped architecture encompasses two levels and features a giant wood-clad canopy. All the aspects of the departure area – from check-in through security to the 39 gates that can expand to 50 – are on the upper level, without the need for stairs and escalators. Beyond security, two parallel concourses with retail at the center are linked by a pedestrian passage providing sweeping views of the airfield.
The lower level is dedicated to arrivals and comprises baggage claim and customs areas, as well as an outdoor public garden. The building consolidates all airline operations under one roof, with a 6,000-space parking garage designed by BNIM steps away to create a seamless journey for arrivals and departures alike.
Designed, planned, and engineered by SOM with CWC and a team of consultants led mainly by women, the new 1.1-million-square-foot terminal was designed to be inclusive and accessible to all. Kansas 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 info desk is set to a wheelchair-accessible height. The Kansas City Air Travel Experience simulator gives passengers unfamiliar or uncomfortable with air travel the chance to ‘test run’ in the days before a trip. A ‘quiet room’ provides a refuge for all travelers needing a calming space. With all-gender restrooms, a sensory room for children, and more, the new terminal makes the travel experience welcome to all segments of the public.
Inside the Check-In Hall, a 732-foot-long Missouri limestone wall is a backdrop to Missouri-born artist Nick Cave’s kinetic sculpture of thousands of colorful wind spinners. The sculpture is the first of 27 works of art spread throughout the terminal.
Certified LEED v4 GOLD BD+C: NC, the building also has goals in place to run on renewable energy in the future. It 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 materials were sourced locally, and its wood finishes are FSC-certified.
- All photos by Lucas Blair Simpson, ©SOM.