Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the busiest airport in the world with ever-increasing passenger numbers. When its previous international terminal was no longer able to effectively meet demand, the City of Atlanta Department of Aviation asked Atlanta Gateway Designers (AGD – a joint-venture between Gresham Smith and Duckett Design Group) to design the new 1.2-million-square-foot Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal.
"The terminal has provided a new front door as an international gateway to the world," said Al Pramuk, Gresham Smith's Executive VP of Aviation. "Our goal was to extend the underground plane train from Concourse E to this new terminal complex with 12 new international gates and a new customs-immigration clearance to eliminate rechecking bags for arriving passengers to Atlanta. The airport now has a 40-gate international complex with a front door and entrance directly from Interstate I-85. The design features provide a beautiful and impressive gateway to the US and the city of Atlanta. The design team did a great job of achieving the combination of functional efficiency, sustainability and beauty."
The design team aimed to create a timeless gateway to Atlanta’s world-class city that could accommodate the airport’s continued growth. They envisioned a fluid design, intuitive wayfinding and improved efficiencies to facilitate better movement of travelers. The terminal was designed to be open, functional and environmentally conscious while adhering to a tight budget and schedule. It features a state-of-the-art ticketing and baggage check lobby and the latest, most streamlined security-screening technology. Strategic planning and layouts facilitate a smoother check-in process and improved customer service. Sleek lines, a vivid color palette and modern, undulating architectural features set the right tone for international travel. And a defining element of the ticketing lobby is its floor-to-ceiling windows with runway views, offering passengers an early glimpse of awaiting airplanes.
The design team also faced significant financial hurdles. When more than 80% of the design was completed, the project budget was reduced by $400 million due to changing economic conditions. The team worked tirelessly to complete more than 170 design changes to keep the project under budget while now allowing the design to suffer. The terminal ceiling, for example, was planned to be flat due to pricing issues, but Gresham Smith designed it in such a way that it could be curved at the same cost. Sustainable, cost-saving elements – such as a large cistern on the building’s lower level that collects rainwater from the roof – were also included without impact to the overall budget. The final product is a LEED Gold-certified, fast-track, multi-package project complete with a new international gateway and concourse, a highly complex connector constructed more than 40 feet underneath the existing Concourse E, and a 1,300-space parking garage. Its efficiency, passenger-friendly features and aesthetic appeal ensure its success for many years to come.