A new, art-filled international terminal takes wing

Alan McLaughlin

Hemmed in by freeways and bay waters, San Francisco's new $1 billion international terminal, opening this month, had nowhere to go but up. Architect Craig Hartman of Skidmore Owings & Merrill designed the airy six-story structure with a double-cantilever roof that makes it seem poised for takeoff. The new terminal, which more than doubles the airport's international capacity, has a mall with shops and restaurants that charge street prices (not airport markups). Most notably, it displays 17 site-specific, commissioned works of art, a $7 million collection that ranges from James Carpenter's Four Sculptural Light Reflectors, hovering 70 feet above the departures lobby, to Vito Acconci's Light Beams for the Sky of a Transfer Corridor, an installation stretching more than 1,000 feet. San Francisco is, of course, earthquake-prone. If the city ever rocks with what airport officials delicately call a "thousand-year event," the terminal, resting on 267 steel pendulum bearings, is designed to swing with it-gently and safely.
-David Armstrong