DFW Terminal, Largest Design Project


The first impression Dallas gives its international air travelers comes largely from the mind of Lakewood resident Chuck Armstrong.Architect Chuck Armstrong is a Principal with Corgan, which was in charge of D/FW’s new $1.7 billion terminal. The building took six years to design and construct. Mr. Armstrong was the senior designer of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport’s new Terminal D, which opened in July.

The 2.1 million-square-foot, 28-gate international terminal cost $1.7 billion and took six years to design and construct.

“It takes literally hundreds of architects and engineers to design a building of this size,” Mr. Armstrong said.

“It was a lot to take care of.”

Mr. Armstrong has worked on large projects before, such as the Exxon Mobil headquarters in Las Colinas and the Cisco Systems campus in Richardson. But Terminal D out-scaled them all.

Casa Linda resident Phil Mein, an architect with Corgan for 25 years who retired last year, said Terminal D is the type of project that may only come around once in a career.

“I’ve worked on some big projects, but it’s definitely the biggest thing I’ve worked on,” he said.

Mr. Mein was the planner, and Mr. Armstrong was the designer. Though Mr. Mein was technically Mr. Armstrong’s boss, he said the two led the project as partners.

“He’s a unique guy,” Mr. Mein said, “very talented.”

The two men supervised about 90 of their company’s people and coordinated with dozens of other firms.

Mr. Armstrong said aviation is the biggest piece of Corgan’s business. Past projects include airports in Houston and Miami. Mr. Armstrong is working on designs for facilities in San Antonio and California.

Airport design is a complex process because the buildings must be secure yet customer-friendly and able to withstand heavy use nearly 24 hours a day. And they’re big.

“The scale of the aircraft drives the scope of the architecture,” Mr. Armstrong said. Terminal D, which also includes a parking garage and the new DFW Grand Hyatt Hotel, covers 29 acres, according to the airport. Its ceilings soar as high as 70 feet.

Designers took special care to give the terminal an open feel so travelers getting off long flights can orient themselves to time and space, Mr. Armstrong said. Windows and glass partitions allow visitors to see from one terminal area into another and provide natural light and views of the sky.

“Terminal D does that very nicely,” he said. “In so many airports you have no sense of where you are or where you’re going until you’re dumped out onto the curb.”

Mr. Armstrong, who grew up in Casa Linda, graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1981. He and his wife, Lynn, have four children.

Though he appreciates the historic architecture of the Lakewood area, Mr. Armstrong said he is a modern designer. He said he hopes to continue working on contemporary, high-profile projects like Terminal D.

“It’s a billion-dollar building, and those don’t come along every day,” he said. “But I’m sure I’ll do others.”

By ELIZABETH LANGTON / The Dallas Morning News

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