BWI passenger area will be lightened up


To get a unified look, older terminal to be painted to match international pier

January 27, 2003|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN ARCHITECTURE CRITIC

As part of the state's $1.8 billion expansion of Baltimore-Washington International Airport, older portions of the terminal are getting a different look along with the new construction.

No longer will the 1979 passenger terminal be known by its distinctive red columns and black space frame roof. The new colors are red and white.

The change is intended to "lighten up the building" and make it match the "clean, open, airy feel of the international pier" that was completed in 1997, said John White, the airport's director of communications.

The white paint is a dramatic change for the 24-year- old terminal, which was designed by Baltimore architects Warren Peterson and Charles Brickbauer and built as part of a $63 million overhaul of the old Friendship Airport.

The new color palette was determined by the Maryland Aviation Admininistration and the state Department of Transportation in consultation with designers working on the expansion, including URS Corp. of Hunt Valley. URS, formerly URS-Greiner, is the architect of the 26-gate Pier A/B for Southwest Airlines, which will replace Piers A and B.

For the past month, contractors have been repainting the signature space frame at night, so they don't disrupt airport patrons during the day. When the weather warms up, exterior portions of the space frame that are black will be repainted too, he said.

Airport administrators have always liked the continuous space frame, but they are concerned that the interior has become too dark and somber, especially since the floor was carpeted in the mid-1990s.

When the William Donald Schaefer International Pier E opened, its design continued the space frame construction, but the ceiling was white inside instead of black. That, along with higher ceilings and a glass-pyramid skylight, contributed to a sense of openness and lightness not found in the rest of the terminal.

The design of the new pier also calls for a white space frame ceiling, leaving the mid-section of the terminal as the only area with a red and black color pattern. The designers with URS suggested that the best way to unify the terminal would be to repaint the black space frame white, so it matches the International Pier and the new Pier A/B, and the airport's administrators agreed.

"Everyone has seen the difference between the international pier and the domestic piers," White said. "When we began the expansion, that was the perfect opportunity to make everything uniform and brighten the interior."

Brickbauer, now associated with Ziger Snead Architects, said he was not consulted about the changes. He said there are other ways to brighten the interior besides changing the colors, such as adjusting the lighting and removing the carpeting.

"The original architect is never consulted," he said. "If I had wanted it white, I would have painted it white to begin with."

Painting is just one of the changes planned for the passenger terminal. White said administrators also plan to replace some carpeted portions of the floor with tile - more like the terrazzo floor in the international terminal.

The entire terminal had tile floors when it opened in 1979, but the tiles developed cracks. The area to be tiled is on the upper concourse, closest to the street and in front of the airline check-in counters.

A test patch with light gray porcelain tiles has been installed near the entrance to the BWI Observation Gallery. The secondary corridor between the check-in counters and the boarding gates will remain carpeted.

Contractors are also moving the terminal's glass walls outward to create more space inside. As a result, the red columns that have always been partially inside and partially outside the terminal will now be entirely inside - another significant change in the terminal's appearance.

The expansion started in 2001 and is being completed in phases.

Contractors passed a key point earlier this month when they demolished the exterior walls of the old Pier A to make way for construction of its replacement, the combined Pier A/B for Southwest, scheduled to open in 2005.

Contractors also this month demolished the old Maryland Department of Transportation headquarters to allow completion of an 8,400-space garage. The state agency moved to a four-story, $25.9 million building at 7201 Corporate Center Drive in Hanover, part of the BWI Corporate Center South office park by Hefner and Weber.

Because it is near a MARC/Amtrak rail station, the corporate center is considered one of Anne Arundel County's first transit-oriented development projects. Like the agency's old headquarters, the new one has been named after former Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes, who was known for his strong support of transportation-related projects.

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