Welcome to “The Big Apple”

With 60-foot-high ceilings and soaring glass façades that fill the space with light, LaGuardia Airport’s massive new Terminal B completely transforms the travel experience. Its grand-scaled interior includes green space modeled after New York City parks and retail spaces that mimic “Big Apple” streetscapes. From bridges elevated 65 feet above grade, passengers can also take in views of the city skyline as they move between the Arrivals and Departures Hall (Headhouse) and Concourses A and B.    

To realize its signature design of the terminal’s grand-scaled interior, HOK architects required a distinctive architectural building solution to create a cohesive high-quality visual experience for passengers. Meeting fast-paced construction schedules in limited workspaces on the jobsite presented additional challenges with this high-profile project.

Molded Shapes Provide the Solution

For creating the desired uniform look and feel while addressing more practical considerations, such as durability and speed of construction, the design team selected Plasterform glass-fiber reinforced gypsum (GRG) and glass-fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) architectural castings.

Based on the architect’s 3D models, the team fabricated more than 9,000 custom GRG and GFRC parts for installation by Cord Contracting in the Headhouse, Spearhead Construction in Bridge B, and The Donaldson Organization in Bridge A and Concourses A and B. JD Traditional Industries and Greenbuild LLC also installed the architectural castings within the terminal’s grand-scaled interior. 

The pre-cast components produced for the project included column covers with recessed pockets for electrical devices, covers for beams and diffusers, and complex components with compound curves for ceiling transitions and other creative design applications. GRG and GFRC architectural casting panels were also custom-made to create unique retail entry portals and curved storefronts. These innovative facades with simulated cast iron, molded stone, and other interesting finishes replicate streetscapes of iconic Manhattan neighborhoods, including Fifth Avenue, Rockefeller Center, and SoHo.

“The precision of the components was spot on and tied together nicely,” said Robert Doxey, project manager at Cord Contracting Company. “Not a single piece needed to be remade, which is amazing based on the thousands of parts for all this work.”

Installation Goes Smoothly

Throughout the terminal, contractors encased 466 steel columns with the GRG and GRFC casting parts. This started with assembling the framing to create various column shapes and sizes (ranging as high as 43 feet and 47 inches in diameter). After MPEs were aligned and coordinated, crews installed the components—starting at the bottom and moving up on lifts and scaffolds. 

The architectural castings saved a tremendous amount of time in the installation and finishing of the column and beam covers since the contractors needed less framing and did not have to finish the entire assembled covering. The precast components were easily secured to the metal framing with screws and the seams were then taped, feathered in, and sanded to achieve a high-quality architectural aesthetic.

“The preformed parts with compound curves also proved to be the ideal solution for meeting the project’s accelerated construction goals,” noted Andee Hidalgo, president of Spearhead Construction, LLC. “It would have been a lot more time-consuming and labor intensive to create the desired curvatures out of drywall, and the quality would not be up to the level of architectural casting materials.” 

Dramatic Transformation

With tight deadlines and limited space to store materials in the work zones, preplanning and ongoing coordination were critical to keeping this high-profile project moving on schedule. “The team producing the precast components was very proactive in conveying potential design issues early on to mitigate potential installation problems,” commented Lance Mueller, project executive at The Donaldson Organization. “Their parts were precisely fabricated to meet the angles and slope the architects envisioned and they were delivered to the jobsite on-demand to ensure just in time construction.” 

Now complete, LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal B won the Manufacturers Award in the East Region Civic (above 50,000 square feet) category of CISCA’s 2022 Construction Excellence Award competition. It also received the 2021 Prix Versailles award for best new airport in the world. This prestigious architecture and design recognition fulfills the Port Authority’s promise to transform the airport into a world-class facility ranking among the best in the nation.