Abilene Airport Arrives at First-Class Facility Status
By Sarah van Wezel
Airport operators are increasingly focusing on architectural and aesthetic opportunities as they seek to modernize existing locations and design new ones. Abilene is a little city in Texas, but its airport is now fit for lofty departures and arrivals that set this facility apart.
First impressions are always important. Abilene Regional Airport is making a grand entry with a brand-new, 11,500-square-foot white architectural-membrane structure that welcomes visitors with a modern flair and cool comfort. With the tension structure consisting of a main arch leading into five arch systems that shade the drop-off/pick-up area at the entrance of the airport, city officials are breaking new ground in modern airport amenities.
“As an airport that has to compete with larger airports within a three-hour drive in three different directions, we have to create and market value and convenience for our customers,” said Don Green, A.A.E., Director of Aviation for the city. “Adding coverage to the front curbside and for the parking spaces has provided two highly visible and appreciated amenities, which we hope will translate into drawing more passengers.”
Gary Haymann, Executive Vice President of FabriTec Structures, elaborated on the design concept, noting, “We analyzed the airport’s parking needs and the layout of both short-term and long-term parking areas. In developing the most efficient solution, we designed full-cantilever-covered parking structures.
“In many areas, we integrated walkway canopies into the parking support columns. We also maintained the same design intent with entry and exit fabric structures,” Haymann said.
“We added the fabric structures,” Green said, “primarily to add convenience and value to our customers, but we also like the visual improvement to the terminal area.”
Fabric has been increasingly incorporated into airport design. The industry is discovering endless design opportunities to create and define their own identities and provide cool comfort for visitors. Fabric-tension structures are light, aerodynamic and express the form of flight unlike any other material such as wood or canvas, Haymann said.
When assessing the look of your facility, both the style and the materials that go into the outdoor structure should be considered. Haymann said, “Fabric structures are ideal to create a free-form that can create instant visual appeal and a lasting sizzle that can set your facility apart from others.”
A fabric structure can transform existing space, provide a focal point for new construction or be the theme for an entire project. With the newer, cutting-edge fabrics, designers can choose from a variety of materials with varying degrees of translucency, light reflectivity, UV protection and non-combustibility.
Green talked about the specific design chosen for the Abilene airport’s Entry Way Phase I and the Covered Parking Phase II: “Both elements went through review by our Airport Development Board with input from our architects and engineers. For the terminal curbside cover, the architect recommended the white arching shape to somewhat reflect a wing’s camber and the shape and color of clouds.”
They chose the parking lot cover design and color almost a year after the terminal curbside cover had been selected, Green said. “We thought it was important to visually contrast the parking lot from the terminal, since the parking lot takes up a large area in front of the terminal. Now, both the lot and the terminal structures share the impression, instead of one dominating or blending in with the other,” he said.
The entrance structure is brilliantly illuminated at night. The white, high-end tension-fabric material looks translucent as light reflects on it, creating a soft glow at night and a comfortable environment during the day.
Adding fabric structures also increases the bottom line measured in capital terms and client satisfaction, Green said. “If you hang around an airport long enough and pay attention, it’s easy to notice that weather has a big impact on how easily customers can get between their vehicles and the terminal, especially when carrying baggage.”
“By protecting customers from direct sun, rain, hail and snow while they are picking up or dropping off at the curb or leaving their vehicles in the lot, we can make the whole experience less stressful and, hopefully, ensure that those customers use the airport again, which means added revenue.
“Based on comments I’ve heard since we completed these projects, I think the improvement in the appearance of the airport has generated more pride in this public facility,” Green said.
On Dec. 16, the Abilene airport celebrated its grand opening with a ceremony that was attended by about 150 people from the region. The ceremony included speeches by Mayor Norm Archibald and Airport Development Board Chairman Larry Gill.
For more information, contact Sarah van Wezel at (972) 354-6535 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by FabriTec Structures
Article Abstract from April, 2009