Salt Lake City Airport Debuts New Terminal & Art Ahead of Sept 15 Opening

Aug. 27, 2020

Local and national officials, architects and the artist involved with Salt Lake City’s new airport expansion debuted the massive first-phase of the eventual $4 billion expansion of Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC). Set for full completion in 2024, the project will grow the transit hub as one of the nation’s busiest while focusing on prioritizing a healthy, safe, and enjoyable passenger experience within the next generation of airport design.

The innovative approach to design led by HOK architects centers around the passenger experience by creating a unique environment for patrons -- including major art installations by Gordon Huether -- as they travel to their final destinations. Featuring more efficient passenger flow, state-of-the-art conveniences and amenities, and high environmental standards, #TheNewSLC redevelopment also incorporates visual aesthetics befitting one of the U.S.’ newest airports.

At the direction of city and airport executives, several major, structurally-integrated art installations have been incorporated into the design from the early stages of development to create a strong identity and sense of place.

Designed by Huether, these massive art installations help define and enhance the passenger experience at #TheNewSLC, as it’s being called, by bringing indoors the natural wonders of Utah.

Said Huether, “The prime objective from the start was to celebrate the natural beauty of Utah in a fully architecturally, integrated art program. The big idea is to blur the lines between art and architecture.

“If there was ever a time that art mattered, where art should transport you to a higher place, where art could unite us in inspiration, nature and beauty, this is that time,” he added.

Huether’s largest airport installation, The Canyon, reflects Utah’s “slot canyon” landscape and is integrated into both walls (east and west sides) of the new main terminal. Other significant Huether installations include a 65-foot-tall glass sculpture in the escalator well, titled The Falls, in the main terminal; Column Plates and Benches that echo the theme of The Canyon walls, also in the main terminal; and other pieces planned for the future Concourse B include Northern Light, Canyon 2.0 and the awe-inspiring River Tunnel featured in the underground pathway that connects the main terminal to Concourse B.

According to airport officials, it was important that the art be a cohesive experience for airport patrons, not disparate pieces which can be the case in other facilities with less continuity or with different objectives.  Rather, the intention of the design was to create a consistent theme throughout the airport that draws a connection to and direct awareness of Utah’s incredible natural beauty, while providing a distinctive and enjoyable environment for travelers.

Gordon Huether projects in the first phase of #TheNewSLC include:

  • The Canyon, Huether's largest art feature at #TheNewSLC, debuts to the public with the grand opening Sept. 15, 2020. In researching the project, Huether was struck by the way light affects Utah’s iconic, weathered rock formations. The color variations and shadows as well as the shapes and striations of the rocks influenced his design for the East and West walls of the new terminal – an area that architects at HOK were already referring to as “the canyon”. True to its name, the new terminal resembles the shape of a canyon in that it begins with a vast open space, pinches in the middle, and opens up again.  Mimicking the beautifully smooth, undulating forms of canyon walls, The Canyon spans over 362 feet in length and is comprised of over 500 individual tensile membrane fins wrapped with a fabric skin of a Tweave Duratech.
  • The Falls was the first of Huether's seven installations to be completed, in July 2020. It is comprised of roughly 300 dichroic glass panels and 220 hand-drawn glass and Pyrex rods forming a 65-foot-tall suspended sculpture that cascades down the escalator well at the terminal’s main entrance. Making use of natural light from the terminal’s huge glass facade, The Falls creates an astonishing array of ever-changing colors and patterns on adjacent surfaces, echoing the many waterfalls of Utah’s canyon landscapes. The entire suspended sculpture weighs a staggering 5,000 pounds and is attached to the terminal ceiling with spring boots to help retain tension on the cables during the winter months when the roof bends under the weight of snow.
  • The sculpturally integrated Column Plates and terminal Benches, which also debut with the Sept 15 opening, are located in the gathering area for both arriving and departing passengers in the new main terminal. These art features create a visual distinction for the various activities taking place in the open space and echo the sculptural themes of The Canyon walls. Made of a composite material, these installations are massive in scale, with Column Plates measuring 18 feet high and 17 feet at their widest point, and Benches measuring 28 feet long by 10 feet wide and 5 feet high. Both the Column Plates and Benches installations will function as seating as well as sculptural elements.