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JFK Airport Terminal 1-X

JFK Airport is creating an expansion to Terminal 1. With the future of aviation in mind, how do we design the 21st Century airport? 


JFK Airport Terminal 1-X

Architecture as systems


As the size of airplanes continue to increase and security in airports remain the top priority in a post 9-11 reality for air traveling, the terminals of the bygone era are becoming obsolete. At JFK International Airport, T2 and T3 are such terminals that cannot accommodate the demands of modern aviation. To take their place, the Port Authority of NY and NJ plans to expand T1 and T4.

The project brief called for an expansion to Terminal 1 with focus on articulating architecture as systems.


Design Goals at 3 Scales

1. Airport Terminal:  Optimize the configuration of the concourses to maximize the number of gates.

2. Concourse:  Separate the various Paces of movement for efficient usage of space.

3. Holdroom (Gate):  Integrate a mechanical system.



1.  Airport Terminal


The project brief required 7 Gates servicing 12 airplanes within the site boundary provided by Port Authority NY & NJ. 

The original site boundary was an arbitrary line that divided the apron space between Terminal 1 and Terminal 4 (a bureaucratic compromise that addressed the potential expansions of both terminals). However, my studies found that if either expansion was realized within this boundary, the other half of the apron is rendered non-expandable due to space limitation. The decision to break the given site boundary was made in order to capitalize on all of the expandable area and maximize the number of gates possible.

The  final design provided 12 gates, as opposed to the project brief requirement of 7, and the number of planes serviceable increased to 15 planes from the required 12.


2. Concourse


The focus of the Airport as a system continued onto the configuration of the Concourse Modulars. Modular A focuses on occupancy. It consists of the gates and holdrooms at the Departures level, while the sterile corridor, administrative spaces and the baggage sortation are located at the lower levels. The Modular B performs primarily as the housing for the mechanical systems.

Modular A’s are the arms as the Modular B’s are the joints (or elbows) of the Concourse.


The concept for Modular A was derived from the organizations of highways, paths that run parallel but weaved through in elevation.

By introducing the Expressway (equipped with dual moving walkways) going over the holdrooms, the main circulation through the concourse was elevated away from the occupiable spaces of Passenger waiting by their gates. The faster paces are separated from the slower ones. This relieved congestions found in many airports, while expanding the overall holdroom spaces (4 holdrooms in one space!).

The slopes of the grade change does not exceed the 5% rate, which do not require additional ADA compliant installations. This still allows for adequate floor height between the holdrooms and the expressway for occupancy.


3. Holdroom (Gate)


Referring to Semper’s Four Elements of Architecture, the holdroom was seen as a habitat consisting of a hearth, enclosure, partitions, and mound. The geothermal was the primary system that was studied, which acted as the hearth of the concourse. The water drawn from the earth (at a consistent temperature of 52° F) performed as heat for the winter and the chill for the summer. 

The geothermal system also provided the opportunity for water-to-water heat exchange, which could provide additional energy from the powering of generators that supply the concourse with electricity. 

The utilization of the geothermal system as a medium of heating spaces could be expanded out to the airport apron. By looping the wells of the geothermal production, the hot waters could maintain a warm temperature throughout the surface of the apron, hence preventing snow and ice from forming during the winter.