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New Orleans International Airport opens world-class new terminal

Nov 5, 2019

The 35-gate, $1 billion terminal will accommodate explosive growth for MSY, now the fifth fastest growing airport in the United States

The new North Terminal at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) opened today following seven years of design and planning work by global architecture firms LEO A DALY and Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group. The 35-gate, $1 billion terminal will accommodate explosive growth for MSY, which is now the fifth fastest growing airport in the United States.

Under construction since 2016, the 972,000 square-foot terminal has been called the city’s most transformative project since the Superdome (1971) and is the biggest U.S. airport terminal project in more than a decade. It completely replaces the existing terminal, which was built in 1959.

Design for the terminal was developed and completed by the Crescent City Aviation Team (CCAT), a joint venture of Atkins and LEO A DALY. CCAT led the design of the airport terminal, its three concourses, concession program, two parking garages, misc. aviation radar and electrical facilities, pump station, airside aprons and landside roadway systems. The terminal design was based on an initial concept by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects. 

“We are extremely proud to have supported the City of New Orleans in bringing the new North Terminal to reality,” said Justin Jones, Intermodal business unit director, Atkins. “This beautiful, state-of-the-art facility will not only provide a modern, spacious place to arrive and depart but also bring a taste of what makes New Orleans unique, including its music, food, and culture.”

“The new MSY establishes an iconic new gateway to the city of New Orleans and a passenger experience unlike anything else in the world. We’re truly thrilled to see it contribute to New Orleans’ growth as a national and international destination,” said Steven Lichtenberger, AIA, president of LEO A DALY.

The terminal immerses MSY visitors in the culture, geography, and history of the Big Easy. Its architectural form evokes the soft curves of the Mississippi River. Dappled natural light streams into the terminal via skylights meant to evoke the city’s tree-shaded urban markets. A jazz garden at the terminal’s three-story central atrium will feature live jazz music, while a massive glass-sealed image taken by a local photographer of live oak trees in morning fog graces the terminal’s main elevator.

The CCAT developed design standards for MSY’s unique concession program, which celebrates the city’s rich culinary, music, and arts heritage. Passengers will enjoy cuisine from local staples such as Leah’s Kitchen, Cure, Emeril’s and Folse Market within convenient view of their gates.

“The airport, along with the design team, encouraged all concessionaires to break away from typical concession standards and materials and to use richer, higher-quality opulent finishes central to New Orleans’ cultural trends,” said Dan Taylor, Atkins senior architect. “We hope the concession program and the design tools it used become a model for future airports.”

The design team worked to maximize convenience for passengers in the terminal. A single security checkpoint serves both foreign and domestic flights and adapts to accommodate large tourist crowds during special events such as Jazz Fest and Mardi Gras. Swing gates provide flexibility as demand shifts between international and domestic flights. A state-of-the-art in-line baggage screening system provides greater efficiency to the airlines and TSA. The layered, open feeling of the architecture, with prominent views of the airfield, makes the airport a breeze to navigate.

The need for storm-resistance drove many technical innovations. A spherical roof shape allows long spans while accommodating heavy rainfall. Extensive wind-tunnel modeling and on-site testing was done in collaboration with engineering firm Walter P Moore to test the blast-resistant curtain walls ability to withstand hurricane-force winds. The site’s marshy soil required 5,000 piles to be driven 100 feet to a sandy bed.

The 35-gate terminal includes the 6-gate Concourse A, which was added 9 months into construction to accommodate increasing demand for domestic and international travel to the city. The CCAT responded nimbly thanks to a digital model and BIM execution plan that allowed design work to resume while construction continued in other areas.

“This was an unbelievably complex project to coordinate, involving around 50 specialty subconsultants working on dozens of digital models simultaneously in studios across the country. Today, all that complexity goes away, and all that remains is the delight passengers feel in this elegant, energetic space. It’s a moment we’ve been building toward for the last seven years,” said Tim Duffy, AIA, director of technical services for LEO A DALY.

CCAT was first selected in 2012 to offer design services for MSY’s long term development.