Concourse Expansion at Charlotte Douglas Int’l Fuses Technology & Artistry

Concourse Expansion at Charlotte Douglas Int’l Fuses Technology & Artistry
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Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) claimed a spot on the industry’s architectural and design map for “placemaking” with a nine-gate concourse expansion it debuted last summer. 

Architects, designers, consultants and CLT staff collaborated to make the 230,000-square-foot development a destination in and of itself. Together, the team revolutionized the visual aspect of Concourse A with sweeping high-tech windows, digital artwork and new customer amenities. 

The new $200 million concourse addition is the first major gate development at the airport in 16 years and represents a 10% increase in total gate capacity, notes Aviation Director Brent Cagle. 

In addition to being wider and taller than CLT’s other concourses, the build-out includes high ceilings, natural light, terrazzo flooring and sustainable windows. “Certainly, it has everything that a passenger of today would expect in a modern concourse,” Cagle says, noting the facility’s spacious restrooms, dedicated mother’s room and pet relief station. 


Project: Concourse Expansion 

Location: Charlotte Douglas Int’l Airport, Concourse A

Operating Entity: City of Charlotte Aviation Dept.

Phase 1: 9 new gates & associated ramp & taxi lanes 

Primary Objectives: Accommodate expanding air service; replace several existing gates

Cost: $200 million

Funding: Future general airport revenue bonds; passenger facility charge revenues

Construction: Spring 2016-summer 2018

Grand Opening: July 18, 2018

Construction Contractor: Turner/Rodgers joint venture

Designers: C Design; Perkins+Will

Electrochromic Windows: View

Seating: Arconas

Featured Artist: Refik Anadol 

Visual Displays: Nanolumens/Cenero Audio Visual

Master Concessionaires: HMS Host; Paradies Lagardere

New food/beverage concessions include Panera Bread and NoDa Brewing, which makes local craft beer that Cagle says is a hit with visitors and Charlotteans alike.

The airport utilized a construction manager at risk delivery method, with the construction joint venture of Turner/Rodgers and architects C DESIGN and Perkins+Will working together to deliver the project on time and on budget.

Standout Features

Cagle’s desire to “do something different and impactful” with the new space led to considerable variances from existing CLT facilities. Perhaps the most notable is a highly visible public art display that draws attention from inside and outside the terminal. 

Utilizing the 1% art budget from the airport’s capital improvement fund, the project team commissioned world-renowned media artist Refik Anadol to create an experiential piece of artwork for CLT customers. The end result is Interconnected, a digitally driven amalgamation of live airport data projected onto three large, eye-catching displays. 

Using C++ programing language in conjunction with elaborate media servers, Anadol’s modern streaming installation collects live data from the airport in three-month increments and siphons them through an algorithm that paints canvases as airport visitors watch. The live images intermingle with geometric shapes, liquids and numbers on a 140-foot-by-9-foot display at eye level for visitors inside the terminal. Images are also projected on two overhead trapezoid displays, each spanning 600 square feet. All three displays can be clearly viewed from the glassed exterior of the airport. An added accent of LED lighting on the architectural fins continually morph in coordination with the ever-changing images on exhibit.

“When you approach the airport, Interconnected really becomes the first element of the terminal that you see from the roadway,” says Cagle. “It certainly helps to define the look and feel of the airport, even as you’re driving up.”

CLT’s manager of Customer Engagement, Lauri Golden, says that the airport was thrilled to incorporate a work of this magnitude into the expansion project.

“Art in the past has been hanging a picture on the wall, and that is not what it is today,” Golden remarks. “Our customers are looking for us to bring something special to them, and we were up for the challenge. We want to create the CLT experience, and we feel like this is a huge success.” 

The installation’s visual animations appear to be breathing as they evolve through three different chapters of an eight-minute presentation that runs on NanoLumens displays. Arch Nelson, the company’s southeast sales director, says that the displays provide an extremely vibrant color palette on a low-touch technology that is very efficient and different from its projection predecessors. 

“All of our technology is engineered to be lighter, thinner and greener—not only to have a low impact on the structure of the building, but also to keep in mind the green initiatives that this building has,” Nelson explains. “This is an emotive technology that allows people to experience the space in a much different way than you would with a typical art installation.” 

Golden is similarly enthused about the installation’s effect on passengers. “Our goal was to expand the terminal and have something special that not only makes the impression of Charlotte on the customer, but also leaves them with something that makes them feel good 24 hours a day,” she explains. “This opportunity definitely demonstrates what art can be at an airport and how it is much more than the traditional canvas painting or statue. It really pushes the boundaries and puts us on the map.”

Window Wonder

The exterior glass that helps showcase CLT’s artwork and new space is also notable. In fact, some predict it will be a game-changer for airport design. 

“It’s not often that people in the construction world get really excited about windows, but we’re just as excited about the windows as we are all the other elements of the building,” Cagle remarks. 

Why such enthusiasm? The tint of the windows adjusts automatically to enhance passenger comfort and views. In technical terms, each of the 733 electrochromic windowpanes from View Inc. has an independent IP address and is driven by software customized specifically for the Concourse A expansion. In addition to helping optimize the temperature within the concourse, the high-tech windows add natural light and maximize their unobstructed views in all weather conditions. 

“We can control each pane independently through software tuned to the airport’s occupancy plans and building location and orientation using energy and daylighting analysis to become integral to the overall design,” explains Andy Kuchel, the dynamic glass company’s vice president for the aviation business. “Each pane is then monitored 24/7 upon installation via a secure cloud connect. Our vision is that View is the core of a true smart building and that our system is a platform for future Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities to allow buildings to work for humans.” 

To showcase the innovative technology for the public, the airport spelled “CLT” on the large window canvas for the expansion’s grand opening in July. 

“The windows will automatically change tint, but we can also change the tint on them manually,” says Cagle, explaining that the airport ID letters were formed by controlling specific areas of the panes using the View app. “We think it is cool and hopefully the rest of the world does, too.” 

Wireless Charging

The expansion project’s high-tech theme carries from the animated digital art and light-sensitive windows all the way down to the seating, which includes wireless charging armrests. 

Originally, CLT planned to use Arconas seating with traditional plug-in charging stations below the seat. But between the time of purchase and delivery, the company rolled out a new product—a wireless charging tablet arm that is offered as an add-on feature to the seating company’s Place series. 

Excited about the enhancement for customers, the airport considered it important to upgrade its order. “Arconas retrofit all of the existing seating that we purchased with wireless charging stations that are part of the armrest,” Cagle explains, noting that the armrests also include traditional charging options. 

“We really wanted to have a high-quality passenger experience,” he reflects. “I think we are leading edge. Nowadays, everybody has to be committed to sustainability, and airports have to be committed to meeting the passenger needs and providing a great experience. I think it all came together in a great way to value sustainability and to value customer experience. We’re really proud of it.”


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