Airport Viewing Pavilion: Design Insights

The airport viewing park and pavilion project was a passion project for our team at MMA, along with the Cascade Community Foundation and Gerald R. Ford International Airport. It’s a community project with the goal of enhancing the community experience for everyone. The concept of this design was inspired by the existing landscape, the powerful view corridor to the runway and the power of flight.

At its core, this project is comprised of two floating roof planes and a landscape. Functionally, it doubles parking capacity, adds bus parking, provides shelter and restrooms, and new, custom-designed barrier-free picnic tables and benches.

For this special park, we quickly realized that this site called for something as broad and grand as the runways themselves - something that celebrates an unimpeded view of flight against the distant horizon.

The design encourages large groups to gather; families, community groups, students, and seniors. There’s a food truck parking spot, bus parking, an 80’ long bench along the front, and power throughout for connecting an array of devices.

The geometry of the pavilion is unusual and exciting, but also practical. As it responds to the natural landscape and topography, it simultaneously welcomes groups to gather under the high, overlapping roofs, as well as more private spaces where the roofs are lower.

The entire pavilion is intentionally set back from the runway to create a front yard for viewing and playing. Parents can enjoy lunch under the structure while keeping an eye on their children playing in the grass in front of them as planes land and take-off.

An essential design consideration was to make the entire park barrier-free and accessible to all – even down to the custom picnic tables. Making the entire parking area relatively level and open required extra skill in shaping the landscape so that the pavilion and its restrooms were visible from any parking position.

Structurally, the columns are 6” and 8” round, responding to different roof loads. They cantilever up from the ground to minimize steel connection to wood ceiling, keeping the roof planes as thin as possible. The structural requirements for this pavilion are not dictated by the weight of snow but by the force of wind. The uplift force is 10 times that of snow load. Our challenge was to stop the roofs from flying away!

Conceptually we wanted the roof to float over the landscape. The columns are distributed randomly to disassociate your eye from following column lines.

The roofs make a gentle V shape in the center and all water flows off the end of each roof form and falls into natural rock formations, making for a celebration for the senses even when it is raining.

See more about this project.