Last weekend was very special for our family as we celebrated the launch of the new Kansas City International Airport, which a team of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) architects, led by my …
Last weekend was very special for our family as we celebrated the launch of the new Kansas City International Airport, which a team of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) architects, led by my son-in-law Peter Lefkovits, designed. We flew out to Kansas City Friday afternoon and got a taste of the old airport, which was built in 1972. To say it was overdue for improvement is an understatement. With its low ceilings and narrow hallways, it was most reminiscent of an old bus station.
The new airport is big, beautiful, and welcoming. The structure, which soars to 70 feet, features a warm timbered ceiling, and is filled with artwork from artists with a connection to Kansas City. Visitors are greeted by an enormous overhead art installation by Nick Cave entitled “The Air Up There.” According to the New York Times, “His creation for the airport terminal… is the size of a football field.” Breathtaking.
Other large-scale art installations are found throughout the airport, including “Fountain” by Leo Villareal—a nod to Kansas City as the City of Fountains, and “Ornithology” by Willie Cole. According to Cole’s website, “The work consists of twelve larger-than-life birds made entirely from alto saxophones. Suspended from the ceiling…this artwork is a tribute to Kansas City native son and jazz great, Charlie “Yardbird” Parker, and his 1946 tune titled, ‘Ornithology’."
The art is beautiful, but even more inspirational is the driving force behind the design of this airport. SOM’s website reports, “Through dozens of community meetings, SOM engaged with residents of Kansas City and its surrounding areas to determine how to create a terminal that would be comfortable, convenient, and welcoming to all. The city issued a resolution calling for the terminal to be ‘the most accessible in the world,’ and SOM planned the terminal to vastly exceed ADA requirements.”
It includes a sensory room for those neuro-divergent travelers, an inclusive play area, a quiet room, and both gender-specific and all-gender restrooms. Nervous fliers can also check out an airline simulation room. They have even included a doggie rest area (complete with an inspirational hydrant) near the gates, as well as a dog park adjacent to the baggage claim area.
The travelators (moving sidewalks) are extra wide to accommodate wheelchairs, and check-in desks are set to be wheelchair accessible. The thoroughness and thoughtfulness of this airport design can’t be overstated. The design team considered everyone’s needs.
Over 10,000 people visited the new Kansas City International Airport over the weekend, according to local news sources, and we saw lots of smiling faces last Saturday.
What with their recent KC Chiefs Super Bowl victory and now this magnificent new airport, Kansas City is really having a moment.
The airport is set to have its official opening on February 28, and I can’t wait to go back. I’ve already begun planning my trip!
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