Academic - Carnegie Mellon University - Advanced Studio Option Studio I - September 2015 through December 2015


JFKT4A+ is a project intended to contrast some of my previous semester projects. I focused on achieving a deeper understanding of the requirements of a terminal and making the most of what the project was, rather than creating something whimsically impractical about what as terminal could be. Perhaps the seminal moment that came to define the method through which the project developed was my decision to base my project upon optimizations to the evacuated tube solar collection system. The system, designed around the collection and storage of heat, defined the asymmetrical transverse section of the terminal. This handedness enabled the creation of an architecturally unique building not based on an overly contrived conceptualization.


Of course a system does not itself good architecture make, and the experience of the building came together within the framework of the overarching structure to create a highly rationalized terminal, from an experiential standpoint. The localization of the systems into the nodes, combined with the overhanging international arrivals corridor created beautiful, well defined program spaces along the length of the terminal. These double hight spaces contain flexibly integrated double-height holdrooms and retail environments, with striking architectural detailing and plenty of natural light. In a sense, this terminal was the best attempt at making building that performed both effectively and beautifully within the existing programmatic constraints. 


concourse parti

The airport concourse is a highly simplistic building typology, driven predominantly by its functional prerogative to enable an interface between passengers and aircraft. Although numerous alternate forms presented themselves as options for this interface, the linear parti has proved to be the most economically viable--and therefore the most successful.

The inevitable linear parti, with aircraft stands arrayed on either one or both sides, has significant implications for the flow of passengers, services, and systems, and hence the architecture itself. The main length of the terminal--where the gates are--is best thought of as an extrusion, to be repeated as the program dictates for efficiencies sake. The one location where there is the opportunity to do something more architecturally unique is at the nodes on either end. Depending upon the configuration of the terminal, these nodes can take different forms. 

In the case of this project, one end of the proposed concourse attaches onto the end of the existing concourse A of Terminal 4, while the other end terminates at the edge of the developable zone of the the airport. Because of site constraints the extension of the concourse was also kinked relative to the existing concourse A. The architectural necessity of negotiating a bend in an ostensibly 2000ft long building allowed the kink to grow into a retail node, a waystation along the length of this massive building. That this terminal was also the final extension of the building allowed guaranteed exposure to the airfield on the other end. This resulted in a parti where one of the nodes expands, and the other fades way onto the airfield from an experiential perspective.



performative goals + systems integration

Heavily emphasized in the studio was the notion that the project must include an innovative building system that would significantly improve the environmental performance of the structure. I used this performative goal as a starting point for developing the overall structure of the concourse expansion.

With its massive area that would otherwise be left unused, the roof of the concourse is the ideal location for a major sustainable system that is also economically viable. The obvious go-to sustainable system for a roof area clocking is at 173,975 square feet is a photovoltaic system. That would result in a net generation of a mere 3060kWhr per year, and I felt that I could do better. 

The decision to choose evacuated solar tubes as a means of collection, as opposed to flat panel solar hot water collectors or photovoltaics, stems from their versatility. Photovoltaics have a significantly lower efficiency in terms of usable energy collected compared to solar hot water; the former tends to top out with a 17% efficiency, while the latter can achieve between 60% and 80% efficiency depending on the weather conditions. Furthermore, evacuated tube solar collectors have an advantage over flat plate collectors in overcast conditions and at non-optimal angles making the system much more flexible.  

Further analysis determined that canting the roof 13° towards the southwest was the most optimal angle for maximizing the collection of energy. Any more, and the roof would begin to self-shade at other times of day, and any less would have the sunlight intercept the roof at a suboptimal angle.


cross-sectional characteristics

With the optimal roof angle of 13° determined as a starting point, the form of the rest of the terminal began to fall into place. Rather than see the decided pitch of the roof to be something incidental to the form of the building, I opted to view it as an architectural generator, especially with regard to the cross-sectional characteristics of the building.

The current plan for the actual concourse expansion calls for the main passenger departure area and domestic arrivals to be on the second floor of the concourse. The first floor is dedicated to baggage and ground services, and the third floor is dedicated to international arrivals. Typically, the holdrooms will be the lower spaces adjoining a larger, more corridor-like center zone. The cant of the roof enables a major shifts in the emphasis of spaces in cross section: the holdrooms--where passengers spend most of their time--becomes the double height spaces, and the central circulation zone becomes defined by the liner datum of the underside of the international arrivals corridor. In this way, the terminal becomes more open, and less overwhelmingly hallway-like.


Another consequence of the double canted roof was the creating of collection points for hot air within the terminal. Airports are cooling dominated buildings, and tend to produce a lot of heat. The peaked portions of the cross section are perfect collection areas for rising hot air within the terminal, where it can then be vented. This also means that not every area of the terminal needs to be fully conditioned, rather only the immediate occupied floor areas must be conditioned.



Openness and Daylighting in Holdrooms


planar organization + systemic scale

The layout of systems and spaces is as rigorous in plan as it is in section. Highlighted in red, the eight identical systems cores of the project neatly divide the length of the concourse into five zones. The division of the terminal into distinctly sequenced zones associated with two specific gates helps with wayfinding by giving passengers a spatial understanding of how far they have progressed along the length of the concourse. 

The systems cores themselves condense a wide variety of program as a means of maximizing the space available within the terminal for holdroom and retail. On the main departures level, the systems core restrooms and plugins for kitchens and retail storerooms. On the third level, the systems cores contain intake vents for outside air and HVAC equipment. The ground level contains HVAC equipment for expunging used indoor air, as well as glycol tanks that act as batteries, storing the heat energy generated by the rooftop evacuated tube collectors.


The systems core, shown above, is much more than a place to sequester restrooms and HVAC units. Returning to the evacuated solar tube collections system came to define the structure and form of my terminal project, I took advantage of the infrastructural scale of the concourse to create a system that works to the benefit of the entire airport, as opposed to merely benefiting the extension of the concourse extension. 


The system as integrated into the terminal has the ability to generate up to 12.6 MWhr/yr, which a truly massive amount. The central plant (CP) itself has a capacity of 115 MWhr/yr, which puts the capacity of the solar collection system at 11% of the total output of the central plant. The sheer capacity of this solar collection system is certainly enough to take over virtually all of the hot water needs for JFK. 

The central power plant at JFK is at capacity in terms of its ability to produce hot water for the airport to use. Airports tend to have considerable demand for hot water as a result of their extensive retail and restaurant amenities in continuous operation. The inability of the central plant to maintain the necessary 185˚F temperature of the interterminal hot water loop currently precludes further meaningful expansion of the airport. Rather than upgrading the capacity of the airport’s central plant at great cost, I proposed taking advantage of the massive 173,975 square foot roof of the terminal extension as a collector for solar hot water and directly integrating the solar hot water collection system of this concourse expansion with the hot water loop that supplies the entire airport.

Although the collectors are the most visually prominent aspect of the system, the scale of the glycol heat storage tanks ultimately defined the plan and experiential sequence of the terminal. By bundling other fixed, necessary elements of the building—including HVAC, restrooms, kitchens and retail storerooms—into eight systems cores spaced evenly along the length of the building in pairs, I was able to allocate the rest of the plan of the building to be used flexibly.


program + flows

The Delta Airlines-sanctioned proposal for the concourse extension represents a major break in the original master plan of Terminal 4. The most major shift was Delta's decision to shift the departures level of the concourse from the third level to the second level of the concourse, as a cost saving measure. In the rest of the Terminal 4, level 2 contains the international arrivals corridor as well as offices, storage rooms, and other elements of program. By swapping the levels, Delta is eliminating everything besides the international arrivals corridor. Bizarrely, this will force passengers to switch levels as they cross from the existing concourse to the planned extension. Departing passengers will have to transition from the third level to the second level, and the international arrivals corridor will have to simultaneously dip from the third floor to the second.


LEVEL 03 International Arrivals, Delta SkyClub


The effects of this level swap are most obvious on the third level of the concourse extension. Virtually none of it along its length is occupiable floor space, with the exception of the international arrivals corridor running along the length of the terminal and the small floor area at the node before departing passengers transition down to the second level. I also took advantage of the relatively unused floor area to nest the Delta SkyClub within the node in a way that eliminates the need for a level change. Lounges in Terminal Four are typically included fourth floor floor additions, so the ability to get rid of another level change in a terminal with an already complicated vertical circulation is a plus.


For a hallway, the international arrivals corridor is one of the most important spaces in terms of the passenger experience, and yet one of the most easily neglected. In the rest of Terminal 4, passengers arriving from foreign destinations are shunted down to a lower level into a low, winding space with little in the way of an experience. The mandate to have international arrivals enter on the third floor was an opportunity for arriving passengers to enter a brightly lit, open space, distinguished by the detailing of the tree columns supporting the canted roof structure. Certainly more fitting welcome to New York City than a grimly lit, winding maze.


LEVEL 02  International and Domestic Departures, Domestic Arrivals


Rather than see the shift from the third level to the second level as an impediment to the movement of departing passengers, I opted to transform the node of the terminal into a welcome break from the conventional monotony of the terminal. In this case, the open, brightly lit node becomes an open retail plaza breaking the regimented flow of the concourse. It is an opportunity to include larger retail amenities in the form of large, wood clad islands, as shown below. The breaking of materiality visually signifies an opportunity passengers to take pause from their frantic procession to their destination, and offers a homely touch otherwise absent in the stark glass and steel composition. 


Every set of opposing gates is grouped into a zone with four retail/restaurant elements branching out from the service core and more conventional holdroom seating located in the middle. Each waiting area is intentionally designed so that the retail and restaurant areas bleed out into the standard waiting rooms. This new typology of holdroom integration with retail elements is shown to both improve the passenger experience, as well as generate more revenue for the airport from concessions sales than the typical segregated condition. 


Another programmatic mandate that makes the Terminal 4A concourse extension more unique and complicated was the specification that each gate be multifunctional. Although the design aircraft for each of the gates was the Airbus A380, Delta and Delta's partners use a much greater volume of smaller aircraft. The current proposal for the terminal expansion proposed a unique type of gate and aircraft stand combination, and that specification was adopted as part of the scope of the studio project. Each gate actually services three different sizes of aircraft: class six, class three and class two. The A380, as a class six aircraft, occupies the full size of the stand and all three jet bridges. The stand can also be split into two smaller class B and class C stands, shown above as occupied by an Airbus A321 and a Boeing 767, respectively.

Each gatehouse--the projections extending from the main concourse, from which the jet bridges branch off--has the ability to handle the simultaneous boarding and deplaning of two separate flights, regardless of whether they are international or domestic. Every gate on the concourse is designed to (or be easily upgradable to) seamlessly transition between handling one large flight or two smaller flights with the exact same ease.


Much like the node, the end of the concourse is a transition between levels and an opportunity to create a distinguishing moment, as determined by the parti. Rather than connect the intra- and interterminal station to the terminal through only a conventional elevator/escalator/staircase combination as required, I saw the end of the terminal opening up to the airfield to take in spectacular views of departing and arriving aircraft. I created a stair/ramp combination that snakes its way down to ground level with plenty of platforms and seating areas to end the terminal with a positive experience, rather than an abrupt cutoff.


LEVEL 01 Baggage Systems, Services, Interterminal Bus Stop


The ground floor of the terminal is dedicated to baggage handling and other behind-the-scenes services of the terminal including storage, kitchens, and loading docks. There is also a stop for intra- and interterminal buses at the extreme end of the concourse. Given that much of the airside program has been relentlessly optimized across the lifespan of the terminal as a typology, there is little to innovate architecturally. Nonetheless, ensuring the existence of enough baggage carousels and having them integrate easily into the existing bay structure is quite important. There are nine separate outbound baggage carousels to service the concourse maximum of sixteen aircraft. At the far end of the terminal, there is also a dropoff point for arriving baggage.

In keeping with the existing gate layout of Terminal 4, service vehicles access the aircraft via a head of stand road. This means that there is a designated route for ground service vehicles to move that runs between the terminal building and the front of the aircraft stands. Unlike many of the terminals at JFK, but found in other major international airports around the world are the orientation and number of roads that span the concourse building. It is quite conventional to orient the baggage carousels parallel to the concourse, as opposed to the perpendicular scheme shown above. Transforming every bag drop point into a road that spans either side of the terminal enhances the efficiency and flow of ground services vehicles, although it comes with a slight increase in structural cost and complexity. There are also connectors not associated with baggage carousels at the node and at the extreme end of the terminal.



During my review, the project was well recieved with the exception of the acknowlegement that my project did nothing to challenge the inherently wasteful transient nature of the concourse. My focus on flexibility began and ended with the ability to reconfigure the gatehouses and holdrooms. Perhaps the airport paradigm needs more disruption than I initially assumed, but the experience of pragmatically developing project was a struggle well worth undertaking.