Designing an airport for Charleston


The design of Charleston International Airport’s renovated terminal is rooted in Charleston history and culture. When complete, passengers and visitors alike will see architectural elements and design features that will emulate the grace and charm of coastal South Carolina and stand out as a welcoming, modern gateway to the Lowcountry and the world.

The renovation was designed by Fentress Architects, a global design firm that has worked in airports in the United States and internationally. Thomas P. Theobald, a principal with Fentress Architects, talks to us about how the design of CHS came about in this first of three Q&A sessions.

Why was it important to incorporate the look and feel of Charleston and the Lowcountry into the architectural design of the renovated and expanded airport?

We always use context to create an identity and a sense of place. Context draws on the senses – the sights, the smells and the memories that define a place and make it unique. Context grows from community and people respond to it. The Lowcountry region of South Carolina that the airport serves offers a plethora of characteristics with which to express and preserve such a unique place in America.

How did you accomplish this?

Charleston has a long and rich history. The design for the remodel of the airport reflects this storied past, but also looks to the future, just as Charleston itself is doing. The colors and finishes are inspired by the unique landscape of the Lowcountry, where the land meets the water in the marshes. Historic precedents such as the Charleston Single House inspired planning principles where public spaces replace gardens that flank porches. Openness and column-free spaces allow for future flexibility and changes in air travel. A simple, strong and modern interpretation of this unique place provides the foundation for a revitalized gateway to Charleston.

Next: The challenges and the trends

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