Text description provided by the architects. mcfarlane | green | biggar Architecture + Design (mgb) was commissioned to design three phases of the Prince George Airport expansion and renovation. The project has contributed to a strong civic identity for the Prince George community as the gateway into northern British Columbia. The project highlights mgb's interest in revitalizing existing spaces and structures in a highly sustainable manner. The first phase addressed new security measures required by the changes to airline travel after September 11th, 2001. New requirements by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority resulted in a national program to upgrade Canadian airports with new equipment and, at times, new space. The second phase addressed new demand for international travel to and from the region. The second phase incorporates international arrivals, domestic baggage claim and offices for the Canadian Border Services Administration.
The project involves the expansion of the existing terminal to include a new departure lounge, international arrivals area, security screening area, baggage make-up room, support offices and renovations to the existing check-in hall and arrivals areas. The design modernizes the 1970’s Transport Canada designed terminal and establishes a fresh approach to the interior and exterior architecture.
The structure is exposed heavy timber, concrete and steel. The design focused on the craft of the structural and envelope detailing. Exterior cladding includes an innovative structurally-glazed curtain wall supported on custom-designed castings. The unique point-fixed glazing system penetrates only the inner pane of laminated glass in the insulated unit preventing thermal bridging. The glazing solution is the first of its type in North America. The ductile steel castings were used to support the roof and used for departure lounge benches illustrating the design’s integration of architectural solutions from structure to furniture.
Materials were selected for their purpose and not for their decorative value. Durability, sustainability, elegant detailing and cost were all weighed in the decisions to develop a simple natural palette for the building. Wood became the dominant material as a means to satisfy the project's ambitions to relate to the regional economy and aesthetic. Fir ceilings and exterior soffits continue the plane of the interior to the exterior of the terminal. Interior wood elements include 'birch box' seating and maple benches that were designed to create variety and intimacy within the departures lounge.
Arriving passengers are greeted with a sky-lit central atrium that serves as the primary circulation linking departing and arriving passengers. The dense structure is layered with a fir sunscreen and a steel and engineered-wood structure. The space transforms throughout the day with a dynamic play of light and shadow.
The back-of-house baggage 'make-up' area is enclosed with translucent polycarbonate planks in extruded aluminum frames. The polycarbonate screens the work area while providing a luminous box from the exterior as passengers descend to the apron from their aircraft. Charcoal fiber-cement panels and panelized cedar complete the exterior palette and continue into the interior.
The Prince George community has embraced the building for its modern and materially expressive aesthetic. The community sees the airport redevelopment and the terminal's design as a catalyst for future growth and a strong symbol as a gateway for commerce, industry and tourism. The project is particularly unique in its ability to define a strong modern architectural character in a part of BC that is often challenged by modest budget projects.