Get an early glimpse of the new timber-topped main terminal at Portland International Airport

PDX Gets More PDX-y

Get an early glimpse of the new timber-topped main terminal at Portland International Airport

Spanning 175,000 square feet, the main terminal building at PDX is the largest element of a five-year capital improvement program. (Courtesy Port of Portland/ZGF)

Portland, Oregon-headquartered architecture firm ZGF Architects is celebrating the 80th anniversary of its hometown air travel hub, the Portland International Airport (PDX), by publicly sharing several early design renderings of the upcoming new main terminal at the airport, expected to be completed in 2025.

With a price tag of $1.5 billion, the new main terminal building at PDX is the largest of five major capital improvement projects that have been completed or are underway at the airport as part of the Port of Portland’s PDX Next campaign. Designed by Hennebery Eddy and Fentress Architects, an expanded Concourse E opened to the public this summer as part of the $2 billion airport overhaul. Meanwhile, a redeveloped and expanded Concourse B, also designed by ZGF, along with a revamped rental car center and parking additions are all due to be completed in fall 2021. Concourse A, home to the last remaining swath of PDX’s extremely locally beloved geometric-pattern teal carpeting, was closed for demolition late last year to make way for the new Concourse B.

design rendering of the portland international airport terminal as seen from above
PDX and its new main terminal building. Mount Hood can be seen in the distance. (Courtesy Port of Portland/ZGF)

As for the 17,5000-square-foot new main terminal, ZGF cites the rugged landscapes of the Pacific Northwest as being a major influence in its health- and wellness-focused design—a design that will boast “nature-infused interiors” and a spacious, versatile footprint geared to accommodate an anticipated influx in passenger volume at PDX in the coming years. Frequently highly rated by passengers as one of the best domestic airports based on various criteria, PDX currently ranks as the 30th busiest airport in the United States based on total passenger traffic, falling in between Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu and Nashville International Airport.

The influence of the region’s natural landscapes will be most evident in the terminal’s vast timber roof, which will be studded with massive skylights and stretch across enlarged lobby and ticketing areas. As noted by ZGF in a news release, the roof, which will begin installation in 2022, is to be constructed—not at all surprisingly—from sustainably sourced regional wood.

rendering of a wooden airport terminal roof with massive skylight
Massive apertures in the undulating wood roof structure pull natural light into the expansive terminal. (Courtesy Port of Portland/ZGF)

“The roof design was inspired by the forests of the Pacific Northwest and the feeling you get while walking through the woods, the experience of light filtering through the trees, and the protection of the tree canopy,” explained Sharron van der Meulen, ZGF partner and lead interior designer for the project, of the terminal’s strong arboreal influence.

In addition to the timber roof, the outdoors-y vibes continue throughout the interior of the energy-efficient, earthquake-safe terminal with plans for a considerable amount of lush greenery to be incorporated into the design.

While the design of the terminal pays explicit homage to the forests and coastlines of the Pacific Northwest, it also nods to the human-scaled, neighborhood-oriented streetscapes of Portland itself. As elaborated by ZGF, passengers traveling through the new main terminal can “expect to see independent storefronts clustered together along a tree-lined ‘street’ and cafe seating spilling out onto ‘sidewalks.’”

rendering of a wood-roofed airport terminal
The design of the terminal is meant to evoke both the heavily forested terrain of the Pacific Northwest and Portland’s dense, walkable neighborhoods. (Courtesy Port of Portland/ZGF)

“We’re taking the airport that has served the region well for the past 80 years and updating and upgrading it,” said Vince Granato, chief projects officer with the Port of Portland. “While the space will look and feel different, we are keeping the heart and soul of the airport that Portlanders know and love—easy to navigate; bright, open spaces; and local shops and restaurants—it will still feel like home.”