Miami Airport Expansion

Sept. 7, 2004
As part of a $4.5 billion expansion at Miami International Airport, Fla., a new concourse is under construction at the southeastern tip of the main terminal. Concourse “J”, a 15-gate, 340,000 square-foot facility, will measure approximately 840 ft. by 120 ft. on seven levels, including a gate control tower.The $100 million project is a portion of a major airport expansion and renovation program planned for the 21st century.  The concourse is programmed to complete the expansion of the airport’s main terminal. As part of the South Terminal Expansion Program under construction at the southeastern portion of the airports horseshoe design, the concourse will also serve as the southern bookend of the airport and will form, along with the North Terminal Expansion, an implied entrance way to the airport.

The design reflects the forefront of airport terminal architecture with high-tech systems and innovative equipment. Concourse “J” reflects a breakthrough in airport design with a vaulted roof structure finished with an aluminum standing seam roof, exposed in the interior with a metal slat suspended ceiling. The interior includes two imposing “sloped” elevated walkways used for international arriving passengers that transverses the concourse in a glass enclosed bridge overlooking the domestic passenger departure lounge.

By always keeping the traveler in mind, the architects focused much attention on the convenience and practicality of the facilities, including moving walkways at the departure and international arrival levels.  Each of the two gates is served by a “vertical circulation component” consisting of an elevator, escalator and convenience stairway used for international arriving passengers accessing the Passport Control area.

Articulating its presence to meet the high comfort level and quality of travel for the new century, the concourse depicts a functional and aesthetically pleasing facility with large spans of glass visible from all areas of the concourse. The modern “fluid approach to design” has resulted in the facility resembling the fuselage of an aircraft, making a statement of contemporary “deconstructionist” design and a pleasing environment for the weary traveler.

Concourse “J” will be functionally integrated to allow uninterrupted domestic and international access throughout all portions of the terminal.  The seven levels of the concourse will house a bus terminal, airline tenant offices/maintenance areas, two level airline lounge, international support functions, concessions, and central air conditioning/electric systems serving the aircrafts at each gate. Circulation spaces on the third level will connect the Passport Control immigration areas direct to the arrival gates at the second floor.  International arriving travelers are secured in sterile corridors during the process of entering the country.

At the ground level, Concourse “J” will handle all the support areas and ground transportation for the tarmac. This floor will also handle the mechanical and electrical needs for the aircraft while on the ground. It will also contain offices, bus terminals, in-transit baggage hold rooms and maintenance facilities. 400 Hz electrical preconditioned power will serve the aircraft while at the gate.  In addition, battery power will serve the ground service equipment thereby, reducing the amount of pollution.

The departure level will house 15 international swing gates, passenger departure lounges, special facilities for in-transit passengers such as children, the elderly and the disabled, and entrances via escalators to the airline lounges on the third-floor. Food concessions, newsstands and commercial retail kiosks will be advantageously placed throughout this level. Passenger circulation will be aided by having centrally located moving walkways. Keeping the clutter and heavy traffic areas in mind, departure lounges will be handled strategically by placing the seating in the perimeter along the glass spans of the concourse.

The third level mezzanine of the concourse overlooks the main departure/arrival area and will house the secured sterile corridors used by international travelers in process of entering the country, as well as administrative and support facilities, including a public health medical clinic for arriving passengers. It will also contain airline lounges, which look down into the departure level. The circulation spaces will connect the customs and immigration areas directly with the airline gates.

The “mechanical penthouse” located at the fourth level will contain all the air-conditioning systems of the concourse. Designed for ease of maintenance, this level will contain highly energy-efficient systems with dedicated access via a service elevator. All this equipment is housed in an “inner linear building” that spans the full length of the vaulted structure as a separate entity floating in the space. This inner structure houses all the building systems, as well as public restrooms and vertical communication elements such as fire exit stairs and passenger elevators serving the second and third floor.

The necessary steps were taken to ensure that Concourse “J” will incorporate cutting-edge design and efficiency. All gates designed for wide-body aircraft will be equipped with dual passenger loading bridges. While this could be the first of its kind for U.S. airports, these dual loading bridges are quite common throughout Europe.Scheduled for completion in early 2006, Concourse “J” is positioned to be the new standard in passenger convenience with high-tech systems and innovative equipment.Always taking into consideration efficiency and comfort, Concourse “J” of the South Terminal will undoubtedly have an impact on future airport design for MiamiInternationalAirport.Roberto A. Smith, AIA is a Principal with MGE Architects in Coral Gables, Fla. The firm provides architecture, master planning, and interior design services for healthcare, educational, and transportation projects in Florida and the Southeast. He can be reached at (305) 444-0413 or [email protected].

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