MCA Municipal Winner – San Francisco International Airport

The Metal Construction Association (MCA) awarded San Francisco International Airport (SFO) Control Tower in San Francisco, California its 2016 Chairman’s Award in the Municipal category.

The design of San Francisco International Airport’s new airport traffic control tower not only focused on functional goals – including withstanding a magnitude 8.0 earthquake, offering maximum sightlines and accommodating state-of-the-art electronics – it also needed to serve as an iconic airport symbol.

The resulting 221-foot-tall 5,652-square-foot shimmering-metal tower features a geometrically complex design resembling a sweeping torch that is topped with an offset control cab – the latter providing Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic controllers with an unobstructed 270-degree view of airport runways and taxiways. The tower is the tallest vertical self-centering post tension concrete structure in the United States and is designed to achieve LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Aluminum Composite Material (ACM) was the option chosen to clad the tower, with a total of 10,000 square feet of formable 4mm ACM painted in the custom SFO Silver color by 3A Composites USA. Recyclable Alucobond, which is manufactured with both post-manufacturing and post-consumer content, contributes LEED credits to building projects.

The west face of the airport control tower is “opened” vertically with a backlit glass façade that stretches 147 feet high to create a local visual landmark. Situated above a new three-story FAA office building and walkways connecting two terminals, the open-core design allows passengers to gaze directly up into the tower through corridor skylights to view the cascading waterfall lighting. The tower lighting can be changed based on the mood of the airport. For example, LED colored lighting transforms the tower in recognition of holidays and special events.

“It looks like some sort of a floral shape. It is really interesting to see something like that rendered in metal. It’s a total contradiction to the form but I think it works and looks really interesting. And it’s a big departure from your traditional control tower concept,” said MCA judge Mark Dewalt AIA, Principal, Valerio Dewalt Train Associates, Chicago, Illinois.

The torch design is reminiscent of the historic pier torches utilized in the 1800s to guide ships to port in San Francisco Bay, according to Curtis Fentress, FAIA, RIBA, president, CEO and principal-in-charge of design, Fentress Architects.

Project Recognition

Building Owner: San Francisco International Airport (SFO), a department of the City and County of San Francisco
MCA Member Manufacturer: 3A Composites USA Inc.
Master Architect: HNTB, Los Angeles, California
Architect of Record: Fentress Architects, Denver, Colorado
Contractor: Hensel Phelps Construction Co., San Jose, California
Metal Installer: Pacific Erectors, Inc., Rocklin, California
Metal Fabricator: Keith Panel Systems Co. Ltd., North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

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