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Salt Lake City’s HOK-Designed, $4.1 Billion International Airport Opens Today

After two decades of planning and six years of construction, the new airport is replacing three aging, 1950s and 1960s terminals and concourses with a single state-of-the-art facility on the same site.

Opening today are the HOK-designed new central terminal building and the first 25-gate section of the linear Concourse A for Delta Airlines. A nearly 1,000-foot-long passenger tunnel links Concourse A to the parallel Concourse B, which will add 20 gates when it opens Oct. 27.

Expected to be complete in 2022, the project’s second phase will include demolishing existing structures and building out the east portion of the South concourse, giving the airport the ability to accommodate up to 32 million passengers a year. The aging facilities (three terminals and five concourses) that the new complex is replacing were designed to handle 10 million travelers per year. The team has taken advantage of the dramatic global slowdown in air travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic to accelerate this next phase by two years, potentially saving up to $300 million from operational and construction efficiencies.

The team is targeting LEED Gold certification for the project, with a goal of establishing a U.S. benchmark for environmentally responsible airports. Sustainable design strategies aim to minimize the airport’s environmental footprint through high-performance glazing, daylighting, energy-efficient mechanical and lighting systems, and an efficient configuration of terminal and gate locations that reduces fuel use and aircraft emissions.

As the biggest public works project in Utah’s history, the new airport positions Salt Lake City for future economic growth as an increasingly popular destination for tourism and home for businesses.

A soaring interior atrium spans the length of a football field and features an undulating wall installation by artist Gordon Huether

Excerpted from The Points Guy:

“As everyone who travels by air knows, airports and aesthetics are not always synonymous,” Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said at an unveiling ceremony for the terminal on Aug. 27. “English humorist Douglas Adams remarked: ‘It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on Earth has ever produced the expression ‘as pretty as an airport.’”

In contrast, he said, the new Salt Lake City terminal is “truly beautiful and breathtaking.”

In creating their image for the new terminal, architects at HOK drew on Utah’s natural dramatic features, including the state’s signature long, narrow and deep “slot canyons.” The hall immediately post security is dubbed “The Canyon” for its design [by artist Gordon Huether], which is meant to emulate its natural inspiration.

“How the filtered light shifts—it shows the geological layers, the reds [and] the greens,” HOK regional lead of Aviation + Transportation Matt Needham told TPG. “It’s definitely a beautiful environment and [gives] a sense of Utah.”

That local feel was a key focus in designing the new terminal for both the architects and local community, he said. Other aspects include large windows with vistas of the nearby Wasatch Mountains that are unique to Salt Lake City’s location.

Travelers will benefit from the efficient layout as well. With just two concourses connected by an underground tunnel, flight connections will be simpler to navigate than in the old five-concourse facility. In addition, both Concourse A and B are wider than the old concourses allowing space for moving walkways, more concessions and larger gate areas with outlets and other useful amenities.

One amenity Delta flyers will appreciate is new Delta Sky Club that will among the airline’s largest. And in keeping with Salt Lake City’s western locale, it features an outdoor fire pit—just don’t plan on roasting s’mores before a flight.

“[We’re] changing the entire physical model of the airport,” said Salt Lake City International Airport Executive Director Bill Wyatt. “The new terminal is “so much more efficient for aircraft and passengers…it’s just a stunningly beautiful and functional facility.”

Column plates and benches in the new main terminal

Excerpted from The Salt Lake Tribune:

The new airport includes higher-tech security screening that is estimated to be up to 30% faster. It has seven miles of conveyor belts for baggage. The new garage is twice as big, with kiosks to allow checking bags there to allow walking into the airport without them.

Waiting areas have far more seats, each with personal power plugs and two individual armrests. Elevated roadways will provide more room for passenger drop-off and pickup—including larger areas reserved for Uber and Lyft.

Art and murals are everywhere—including the restrooms. Passengers will never be farther than 150 feet from a restroom, each with far more stalls. And the airport will have the largest-in-the-world Delta Sky Club at 28,000 square feet to enhance Delta Air Lines’ hub operations here.

In this aerial view, the new terminal and satellite concourses are on the left, with the old terminal complex on the right

Excerpted from the Deseret News:

“I would dream to see in my career other cities across the country replicate what Salt Lake City has done,” said Kevin Burke, president and CEO of Airports Council International-North America. “America’s airports need to be modernized, and Salt Lake City has been on the cutting-edge of that.”

In a strange way, Salt Lake City’s new airport is ushering a new era of air travel, when the importance of personal space, cleanliness and hygiene will likely outlive the COVID-19 crisis. … For travelers traveling to, from and through Salt Lake City’s new airport, space will not be an issue in the massive new terminal and concourses. Everything is spacious—from the bathrooms, to the seating areas, to the unique Greeting Room designed especially for large family greeting parties that are common in Utah.

“This new SLC airport affords customers a more convenient travel experience, intertwined with luxury and innovation,” said Scott Santoro, vice president of sales for Delta’s West Coast. “As a significant hub location for our network, this new SLC airport holds tremendous value for our network at large and has and will continue to give Delta a competitive advantage in the region.” Delta carries about 60% of Salt Lake City’s total airport traffic.

All images courtesy of Salt Lake City International Airport

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