Dezeen Magazine


SOM tops Kansas City airport with giant timber-clad canopy

International architecture studio SOM has completed a terminal for Kansas City International Airport that features a large wood-clad canopy.

The SOM-designed terminal opened last week in Kansas City, Missouri, replacing a three-terminal structure that served as the city's primary airport since 1972. It comprises a two-storey structure with airline facilities, gates and concourses. Each of the levels has access to a curb for motorist pick-ups and drop-offs.

Kansas City International Airport departures gate with wooden overhang
SOM design a terminal for Kansas City International Airport

"As the largest single infrastructure project in the history of Kansas City, the new LEED Gold terminal will significantly increase passenger capacity with a design deeply informed by residents throughout the city," said SOM.

"The 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."

Departures gate with cars
It replaces three buildings built in 1972

The terminal was designed to accommodate the growing traffic of the airport, increasing its capacity from 3.8 to 11 million passengers per year. According to the studio, the design allows for the terminal to be expanded further, from its current 39 gates to 50.

It has an I-shaped design with expansive glazing wrapping the entrance area for the check-in areas. A hemlock-clad overhang, supported by a series of "structurally expressive" Y-beams, shades the departure area.

The interiors are light filled with soft materials

The hemlock of the overhang extends inside to create, along with the terrazzo flooring, a "warm" experience for people in transit.

The arrival area features a massive limestone wall, as well as an installation by artist Nick Cave made of thousands of colourful wind spinners.

Check-in area with installation
An installation by Nick Cave is in the check-in area

In order to meet the accessibility goals set by the local government, SOM placed all aspects of the departure area on one level, from check-in to gate, to avoid reliance on stairs and escalators.

All of the desks and points-of-contact were set to wheelchair height.

In addition, the airport worked with the studio to create space for what it calls The Kansas City Air Travel Experience – a simulator that "will give passengers who are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with air travel the chance to 'test run' in the days before a trip".

This simulator includes a full-sized model of an aeroplane cabin that will be installed in the terminal.

Gates and walkway
It was built to be as accessible as possible

The lower level of the building features the baggage claim and customs and has an outdoor public garden.

SOM also noted that the airport "has goals in place to run on renewable energy in the future" by installing a solar farm on the site. It was built with locally sourced materials.

"Many of the materials were sourced locally, and its wood finishes are FSC-certified," said added SOM.

"The master plan also includes a comprehensive conservation strategy that maintains native trees and grasses from KCI’s original construction."

Other airport projects designed by well-known architecture studios include Foster + Partners' upcoming King Salman airport in Riyadh and MAD's feather-like terminal for an airport in China.

The photography is by Lucas Blair Simpson.

More images and plans

SOM kansas city international airport
SOM kansas city international airport
SOM kansas city international airport
SOM kansas city international airport
SOM kansas city international airport
SOM kansas city international airport