U.S. Airways International Terminal One

Philadelphia International Airport

Philadelphia, PA, USA US Airways Pierce Goodwin Alexander & Linville, Associate Architect; Kelly/Maiello, Local Architect Transportation + Infrastructure 780,000 ft2 / 72,000 m2 American Council of Engineering Companies Platinum Award for Engineering Excellence (2004), Pennsylvania Outstanding Engineering Award (2003)

US Airways International Terminal One is part of a phased expansion of the Philadelphia Airport System, comprising a four-level terminal with 13 new international gates. Linked to six existing terminals, this new building is situated on the western edge of the runway. Bordered to the north by a service road with SEPTA high-speed rail service to downtown adjacent to the road, Terminal One stretches 190 feet over the roadway to accommodate the complex programmatic needs of the space. Further complicating the design challenge, Philadelphia does not utilize a two-tier or elevated roadway system to separate departure and arrival traffic.

The site area was originally conceived as a narrow rectangular band, but this airside provision was ultimately determined insufficient. To accommodate the demands of a complex program, KPF proposed stretching the mass of the new terminal 190 feet (58 meters) over the roadway. The novelty of this scheme is revealed in section. The approach to the terminal is defined by a large truss suspended 38 feet (11.6 meters) over the access road.

Rather than placing the 22-foot-high trusses under the floor slab, which would have disrupted traffic flow and operations on the roadway and SEPTA line, the design team suspended the floor slab from roof trusses. In addition to the convenience of maintaining existing infrastructure, this design decision reduces passenger inconvenience, lowers building volume, and reduces vertical circulation costs. Clerestory windows were added along the roof truss diagonals, creating a saw-tooth shaped roof that fills the space with diffuse northern daylight.

Distinct from conventional air transport facilities, which feature sunlit departure areas but afford deplaning passengers less than memorable amenities, arrival areas here are given equal architectural significance. All arrival functions, including a baggage claim, a skylit arrivals hall, and Federal Inspection Service (FIS) facility, are located one floor above the departure hall. This inversion of the traditional sectional sequence between arrival and departure is fundamental to the terminal’s conception as an international gateway.

William Pedersen, who led KPF’s design team, describes the arriving passenger experience as an “…ascension through a light-filled route that increases in dramatic intensity all the way to the arrival hall. In all other international terminals, the baggage retrieval is buried in the bowels of the structure. Here it is high in the air... a room of curving geometry.”

Image 1 / 8 | © Woodruff-Brown