Orlando International Airport (MCO) is the gateway to Central Florida’s thriving business community, theme parks including the Walt Disney World Resort, miles of spectacular beaches and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
“This summer MCO will debut Terminal C, which is designed to support growing passenger volume and reinforce the airport’s reputation for excellence in traveler satisfaction,” said Curtis Fentress, FAIA principal in Charge of Design with design architect Fentress Architects.
Terminal C will introduce the next generation of “The Orlando Experience.” Terminal C builds upon the established MCO aesthetic of air, water and sky to include a seamless, low-touch environment that offers an exciting combination of concessions, interactive media displays and iconic architecture. Upon opening, Terminal C will serve up to 12 million passengers annually and feature a new Federal Inspection Service (FIS) facility as well as 15 new gates (accommodating up to 20 aircraft), along with amenities including a nursing station and pet relief areas. At full build-out, Terminal C can increase capacity at MCO up to 60 million passengers annually.
Elevating “The Orlando Experience” with Iconic Architecture
Design architect Fentress Architects, together with HNTB as architect of record, designed Terminal C to be an iconic gateway to the entire region. Among the terminal’s signature architectural elements is The Prow, which sets an uplifting tone at curbside, especially when seen against a dramatic Florida sky. The ambient natural light that will flow in from this curbside curtainwall, as well as from the terminal’s skylit spine, helps bring the outdoors in, and guides passengers to world-class amenities and onto their gate.
“Innovation and sophisticated design that reflects elements of the Central Florida community combine to deliver a world-class travel experience,” says Kevin Thibault, CEO, Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. “Terminal C will be so much more than a transfer point from one place to another. It will serve as a multimodal memorable entryway for passengers visiting, living and working in the region.”
All major building elements—ticketing, security, concessions, gates and baggage claim — will be aligned along The Boulevard, which will lead passengers on a linear journey. The Boulevard will be adorned with a Grand Skylight that introduces dappled daylight and supports lush foliage.
“The tinted glass panels of the Grand Skylight dapple and diffuse sunlight, which creates an effect reminiscent of light coming through Orlando’s historic orange groves,” said Curtis Fentress, FAIA Principal in Charge of Design with design architect Fentress Architects.
The Boulevard also will connect Terminal C’s two signature civic spaces — Palm Court and Town Square — with the MCO’s Train Station (also known as the Intermodal Terminal Facility), which supports up to four rail systems including Brightline’s inter-city service. Palm Court is located airside, at the terminus of The Boulevard skylight. As the grandest of Terminal C’s civic spaces, this vibrant location will feature shopping, experiential media, dining, socializing and relaxation lounges in a daylit, garden-like atmosphere. Second-story retail and lofted airline clubs are designed to overlook Palm Court and its experiential media element, which will feature animated, interactive environments that encourage engagement as travelers pass by.
Meanwhile, Town Square is located landside, at the terminus of an elevated international arrivals corridor. This light-filled, spacious arrivals hall on the terminal’s upper-most level will provide a stark contrast to the buried baggage claims found in so many other airports. It is imbued with a sense of welcoming and openness to enhance the international and domestic passenger experience.
Uplifting Experiences: Arrival & Departure
With the help of recently developed baggage conveyance technology, the traditional paradigm of arrivals on the lower level and departures on the upper level will be reversed at Terminal C. Passengers arriving — often from long flights — will be directed to a unique and uplifting experience: the upper-most level of the terminal. Awash in filtered Central Florida sunlight with majestic views of the local natural environment, this immediate and immersive experience will at once orient travelers to both Orlando and the United States. Easy access to restrooms and concessions, in a pleasant environment, will further cater to travelers’ needs.
Departing travelers will have a similarly pleasant experience with everything from intuitive parking and drop-off areas to a new ticketing hall designed for flexibility, and outfitted with kiosks and outstanding customer service representatives. Security is designed to be similarly intuitive, orderly and responsive.
The Experiential Media Environment (EME) has been seamlessly integrated into Terminal C’s architecture. All three EME features serve to celebrate the region’s dynamic identity and highlight for visitors the knowns and unknowns of greater Central Florida’s natural and developed attractions.
- Moment Vault, located in Palm Court, offers departing passengers a 360-degree immersive surround experience with 2mm displays on a 15K digital canvas that uses digital capture technology and interactivity to place travelers directly within the scenes. Highlights in the 23 capsules that run 109 minutes include underwater play in deep blue springs with a school of bioluminescent fish and an excursion to the surface of Mars where red rocks have a life of their own.
- Windows on Orlando, located along the airside concourse, is a 100-foot-long, 32-foot-tall display comprised of three adjacent, panoramic screens. Select Central Florida sequences were filmed on location in 12K for a total of 20 original capsules that run 79 minutes. Highlights include a rocket launch captured from the NASA Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center and an afternoon ride under open skies to round up cattle with cowhands at the Deseret Ranch in St. Cloud.
- The Portal, coming in the future to the Town Square (the arrivals hall), rises three-stories high and is comprised of 32 custom curved screens suspended in a helical frame. Synchronized content plays on interior and exterior screens, offering 26 capsules that run 125 minutes and tell a visual story of the transformation of Central Florida from natural springs and ranchlands to the dawn of Disney, the launch into space exploration and a bounty of entertainment opportunities.
Hi-Tech, Low Touch
International and domestic passenger growth at MCO will be bolstered by an increasingly touchless experience. “Touchpoints,” also known as points of contact or interaction, occur at check-in, security, concessions, boarding, customs and more. These have long been hallmarks of the passenger experience. That said, over the past few decades, airport planners and designers have helped lessen the time spent at touchpoints and, in doing so, made the airport experience both more efficient and pleasant.
Terminal C was designed in a linear/pier configuration, which minimizes transit times for departing passengers to an average of 11 minutes. Additionally, Terminal C will engage a variety of biometric devices including:
- 100 percent automated screening lanes at TSA checkpoint.
- 100 percent facial recognition at all 15 gates for international arrival and departures.
- A long list of design strategies have been employed to help Terminal C be as sustainable as possible. Strategies include the deployment of reduced water-consumption and irrigation systems, responsive lighting and temperature control systems, solar panels, and non-toxic adhesives and non-painted natural materials. Together, these and other strategies are likely to support an award of Silver or Gold LEED Certification by the US Green Building Council. If awarded, Terminal C will be the first LEEDv4 airport campus of any level in the world
Project Identification Form
Location: Orlando, Florida, USA
Client: Greater Orlando Aviation Authority
Grand Opening Date: September 19, 2022
Entire Complex: 2,800,000 sf / 260,128 smTerminal C:1,800,000 sf / 157,935 sm
Project Cost: $2.8 Billion
Design Architect: Fentress Architects
Architect of Record: HNTB Corporation
Technology and Multi-Media System Engineer: Burns Engineering
Construction Management/ Contractors:
Turner-Kiewit joint venture provided construction management services for the Landside Terminal C.
Hensel Phelps served as construction manager for the Airside Terminal C.
Vanderlande is the design/build/operate/maintain contractor.