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Architectural Record Features Design of LaGuardia Airport’s New Terminal B

The article highlights the history of LaGuardia Airport and the transformational design of the $5.1 billion, 1.3-million-sq.-ft. Terminal B, which was completed in 2023.

Excerpted from Architectural Record:

Following a nine-year, $8 billion campaign, the dark, cramped, and seemingly universally detested Central Terminal that once stood at the heart of LaGuardia Airport has been replaced with a spacious, brighter headhouse: Terminal B. The about-face is all the more remarkable considering the complexities of building in front of, behind, and over existing roadways as well as an active concourse that continued to serve roughly 45,000 daily passengers during the transformation.

“It was a bit like driving down the highway at 60 miles per hour, getting a flat, and having to change the tire without being able to stop the car,” says Peter Ruggiero, design principal at HOK, architect of the 1.3 million-square-foot, 35-gate project.

HOK and engineering partner WSP collaborated closely with the design-build joint venture of Skanska-Walsh to develop an ambitious but implementable scheme: a headhouse would be erected in front of the existing Central Terminal, two island concourses would be built airside, and two bridges would connect the structures—all completed while closing no more than four active gates. The old terminal would then be systematically disassembled. “At times, it led to some strange conditions, where passengers would land, walk through a brand-new concourse, cross a temporary bridge, and then emerge into the old terminal,” recalls HOK president Carl Galioto, “but in the end it worked.”

At Terminal B, a sweeping 1,200-foot-long glass curtain wall ensures that the interior of the departures and arrivals hall remains bright—in fact, engineers devised a cable-supported facade system that minimized mullion size—and clerestories along the opposite wall balance that brightness. In section, the architects punched through floor plates, bringing daylight to the arrivals level and baggage carousels (so often tucked into the lowest and darkest floors, but here conceived as a mezzanine, with another floor underneath). Partnering with the Public Art Fund, LGP filled the arrivals and departures hall, as well as other spaces, with commissioned artworks too.

After checking in and passing through security, travelers glimpse the not-so-faraway concourses and the soaring pedestrian bridges that will transport them there. Although similar crossings have appeared in other airports—notably, at London’s Gatwick Airport and Denver International Airport—LaGuardia’s Terminal B is the first in the world with two, and the first to use them as an active part of construction phasing. “It’s also a metaphor,” adds Galioto. “New York is a city of islands and bridges.”

During the planning stage, designers needed to sandwich the bridges between two datum lines. Above, visibility from the air-traffic control tower to the apron could not be obstructed (this also led to the concourses’ gently tapered profiles). Below, the bridges needed to hurdle the existing Central Terminal, which, after demolition, would create space for additional taxiways beneath them to improve aircraft circulation. With 57 feet of clearance, there is enough room for a Boeing 767—a rare but occasional visitor at LaGuardia—to pass by.

The accolades have steadily trickled in as well. Terminal B recently became the first in North America to receive five stars from airline- and airport-rating service Skytrax. “The evolution from worst-in-class to best-in-class is something that we are very proud of,” Cotton says. “It’s not just that the airport is new, but that, as passengers experience the architecture, interior design, public art, and multiple concessions, they recognize that they’re in New York, too.”

Read the full article here.

The project was overseen by LaGuardia Gateway Partners, a consortium composed of Vantage Airport Group, Skanska, Meridiam and JLC Infrastructure for development and equity investment. Vantage Airport Group led the redevelopment program and management of Terminal B, with Skanska Walsh as the design-build joint venture and HOK and WSP for design.

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