About GenslerOnCities

What makes cities tick? GenslerOnCities explores the planning, design, and the potential futures of urban landscapes.

Search GenslerOn
Cities Topics
Connect with Us
« Shanghai Tower: Milestones | Main | Burden of Future Proof: Facile Learning Environments in a Tech-Savvy Age »

Design You Don’t See

Image © Gensler

Sometimes great design is invisible—or more specifically, you don’t notice it because it works so well, you don’t have to pay attention to it. Think of FedEx, or Zappos, or even WD-40. While we know that there is a lot going on behind the scenes to make these things work well, we take them for granted because they make our lives easier. They’re functional, fast and reliable, and enable us to enjoy things we’d rather be doing.

That’s often the case with great airport design. People need to get places simply and quickly, and airports must connect people to planes and their baggage. At JFK’s new Terminal 4 Concourse B regional jet extension, that’s what happens. The second of a multi-phase renovation and expansion of JFK Terminal 4 by Delta Air Lines, the project comprises a new, 75,000 square foot, 11 contact gate extension to Concourse B. The extension connects Delta’s regional jet flights to 16 existing Delta gates at Terminal 4’s Concourse B, which primarily services international flights. Designed by Gensler for Delta Air Lines, construction of the $175-million project was managed by the STV/S&P Joint Venture.

The joy in the new extension? For the many passengers who transfer from one flight to another, reduced travel times. And for people transferring from a regional jet, you no longer have to disembark onto the tarmac. That’s good design working for you—invisible, and speeding you on your way to the things you’d rather be doing. Here’s how it works.

Image © Gensler

Gensler’s design objective for JFK Terminal 4 Concourse B extension is to streamline, speed, and simplify travelers’ paths through the terminal, while providing Delta Air Lines operational flexibility, room to grow, and a place to consolidate connecting flights at JFK.

Travelers will realize the benefits of the extension in terms of reduced connection time. Eighty percent of Delta’s operation will now be consolidated on Concourse B, which means there is no need to transfer between terminals. The result? Passengers will see a reduction of at least 5 minutes in the time required to transfer between connecting flights—and some will see their connections reduced by as much as 15 minutes.

Image © Gensler

From the new gates in Terminal 4, customers will enjoy panoramic views of Manhattan. From most seats, people will have access to power and USB ports. Gensler designers incorporated ‘relax and recharge’ counters at gates so that people interested in using laptops or mobile devices can opt for counter-style seating to facilitate work while traveling.

Image © Gensler

At Terminal 4, the 11 regional jet gates are now serviced by passenger boarding bridges, which means passengers are no longer required to walk downstairs and outside to board the aircraft, as was the case at Terminal 2. Carry-on luggage that does not fit in the overhead and normally picked up on the side of the aircraft will now be brought up to the passenger in the bridge by dedicated bag lift.

The extension can accommodate either 11 CRJ 900’s, or five 737’s with three CRJ 900’s, offering Delta’s operation flexibility to better meet their business needs. Gate flexibility is essential in the ever-changing airline industry.

Image © Gensler

Two of the new gates are able to convert from international to domestic arrivals with a simple opening or closing of a door, offering Delta the speed and agility to adjust to market demand on a daily basis. For example, when an international flight arrives, Delta simply closes the door into the gate, filtering passengers into the glass-walled ‘sterile corridor’ to direct them to customs. After these flights are complete, Delta closes the door to the sterile corridor and re-opens the door to the holdroom, a speedy and seamless transition.

Image © Gensler

With an eye to future changes in the airline industry and increases in passenger demand, Gensler designed the concourse to expand in two directions, both up and out. By designing a flexible plan, architects laid the groundwork to extend the concourse 25’ out on both sides, and also to add a third story to the existing two-story extension. A third story would enable the terminal to accommodate larger aircraft and separate domestic and international passengers more easily.

A little-known fact is that Terminal 4 has already expanded two times, yet manages to maintain a consistent architectural vocabulary. It’s also an exceptionally flexible terminal, capable of handling both the largest planes—A380s—as well as smaller regional jets.

Matt Johnson is unapologetically obsessed with design. From the overall form of a building down to the singular moments that make up a passenger’s journey, no detail is too small to consume his attention. A design director with Gensler’s Aviation and Transportation practice, you can contact Matt at Matt_Johnson@Gensler.com.

Reader Comments (2)

Design is one word, but it is the world.
01.17.2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoumanh Abbas
A great article that speaks to a designer's commitment to the quality and depth of thought, which reveals beauty beyond the surface.
01.27.2015 | Unregistered CommenterBing Zeng

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.